N.Y. Reopening Amusement Parks; EU Vaccine Deal: Virus Update
A worker delivers a box of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at a hospital in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA/Bloomberg)

N.Y. Reopening Amusement Parks; EU Vaccine Deal: Virus Update

New York state announced a reopening schedule for summer camps, indoor family-entertainment centers and amusement parks. New York City warned of vaccine shortages stemming from the winter storms that have paralyzed large swaths of the nation.

About one-third of U.S. troops who have been offered a Covid-19 vaccine have declined the inoculation, initial Pentagon data show.

The European Commission secured hundreds of millions of additional doses and vowed to speed the clearance of vaccines targeting coronavirus variants. Meantime, fewer than one-tenth of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine doses delivered to Germany have been administered in the initial days of the rollout.

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N.Y. Reopening Amusement Parks; EU Vaccine Deal: Virus Update

Shot Less Effective Against South African Strain (5:20 p.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine stimulated roughly two-thirds lower levels of neutralizing antibodies against the South African variant of the coronavirus in a lab study.

The Pfizer results are part of tests of its vaccine against a lab-created virus that had all the mutations found in the South African variant, which is thought to spread faster than earlier versions. The study released Wednesday showed reduced neutralization of the South Africa-like virus by blood from people who had been immunized with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The companies believe their vaccine will still work against the variant.

France Extends Quarantine in Northeast (1:40 p.m. NY)

France is extending the duration of quarantine to 10 days for those who test positive to Covid in the northeastern section of the nation where virus circulation and the prevalence of new variants is particularly high. The French government also said testing and tracing campaigns will intensify there, and that vaccines will be earmarked for the area.

One-Third of U.S. Troops Decline Shots (1:35 p.m. NY)

About one-third of U.S. troops who have been offered a Covid-19 vaccine have declined the inoculation, initial Pentagon data show. The choice still allows personnel to deploy.

Pentagon officials told a House panel Wednesday that inoculation is still voluntary for service members because the vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. so far are approved by the Food and Drug Administration on an emergency-use basis. That would change with full approval by the FDA as many other vaccinations are mandatory for troops.

Iran Approves Astra Vaccine (12:10 p.m. NY)

Iran’s health ministry has issued an emergency-use approval for Covid-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford and India’s Bharat Biotech, a deputy at the country’s Food and Drug Administration said. Iran aims to buy AstraZeneca-Oxford shots through the World Health Organization-backed Covax program “or directly from South Korea and Russia-based producers of the vaccine,” Heidar Mohammadi was cited as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

N.Y. Says Summer Camps Can Reopen (11:55 a.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a raft of new openings for businesses. He said indoor family-entertainment centers can reopen on March 26. Outdoor amusement parks can resume starting April 9 at 33% capacity. Overnight summer camps can plan on reopening in June, with regular testing.

Separately, the state has concluded vaccinations for all nursing home residents and staff who chose to receive the inoculation, Cuomo said. The state’s positivity rate has fallen for 40 straight days, the governor said.

UN Calls for G-20 Vaccine Plan (10:45 a.m. NY)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global vaccination effort, urging the Group of 20 countries to coordinate it.

“The world urgently needs a global vaccination plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities,” Guterres told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

Separately, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the council the U.S. will pay the more than $200 million it owes to the World Health Organization by the end of the month.

Weather May Delay NYC Vaccinations (10:20 a.m. NY)

New York City may have to hold back as many as 35,000 vaccine appointments after bad weather across the nation delayed deliveries, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The city has fewer than 30,000 first doses on hand and will run out as soon as today, de Blasio said Wednesday during a virus press briefing.

De Blasio called for a direct allocation of the vaccine to the city, and a bigger share of what the state gets. The city is giving out 53% of the vaccines administered in the state but is not getting 53% of the state’s allocation, he said.

The city has administered more than 1.3 million total doses so far, according to the mayor.

Dutch to Fund Pandemic-Hit Education (8:43 a.m. NY)

The Netherlands set aside 8.5 billion euros in a multi-year support plan for the country’s education system, to help pupils and schools hit by the pandemic.

To remove study delays caused by the outbreak, primary and secondary schools can use extra funds on targeted measures such as tutoring for pupils in small groups. About 6,600 primary schools will on average get 180,000 euros per school in the coming year, while the 650 secondary schools will receive more than 1.3 million euros on average. Tuition fees for university students will be cut in half next year.

U.K. Mutant Gains Ground in Germany (8:31 a.m. NY)

The fast-spreading virus variant first found in the U.K. now makes up more than 20% of cases in Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

“We must assume that it could also dominate here soon,” Spahn said in a tweet on Wednesday, citing data from the Robert Koch Institute. The share of variants from South Africa and Brazil is also rising, but is at a much lower level, Spahn said.

France Says Too Soon to Reopen Restaurants (8:15 a.m.)

With virus cases and deaths on a “high plateau,” it’s too soon to reopen restaurants, bars, culture and sports venues, according to French government spokesman Gabriel Attal.

“The pressure remains high,” Attal told reporters in Paris. The government can’t rule out a third lockdown, especially as new variants of the virus progress, he said.

AstraZeneca Doses Go Unused in Germany (8:04 a.m. NY)

After a clash last month over whether EU countries would get their fair share of AstraZeneca’s vaccine shipments, fewer than one-tenth of the doses delivered to Germany have been administered in the initial days of the rollout. Some health-care workers also say they’re concerned about side effects amid reports about unexpectedly strong reactions.

Germany isn’t alone: Some French health workers are also pushing to get shots from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech instead.

U.K. Clears Study to Expose Volunteers (7:30 a.m. NY)

The U.K. is set to carry out the world’s first study to deliberately expose volunteers to the new coronavirus to speed research. The human challenge study was approved by a research ethics committee and may eventually help accelerate development of vaccines and treatments and take on variants, the partners including Open Orphan Plc said.

The trial involving as many as 90 people -- due to begin within a month -- is aimed initially at determining the smallest amount of the virus needed to cause infection.

Europe Clinches More Vaccine Deals (7:06 a.m. NY)

The European Commission finalized an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech for 200 million more doses of their vaccine and announced a major new order with Moderna for 150 million more doses, also for this year.

The moves lock in a second-quarter supply boost as countries struggle to speed up their immunization drives.

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