U.S. Passes 100 Million Doses; California Eases: Virus Update
A worker pushes a person in a wheelchair to the Covid-19 vaccination area at a clinic in Lima, Peru. (Photographer: Miguel Yovera/Bloomberg)

U.S. Passes 100 Million Doses; California Eases: Virus Update

The U.S. passed the milestone of administering more than 100 million Covid-19 shots. California said 13 counties can ease restrictions, including opening restaurants and movie theaters to 25% capacity. Michigan will begin vaccinating all people 16 years and older starting April 5.

President Joe Biden’s administration is holding onto its stockpile of AstraZeneca PLC vaccines, rebuffing pressure from Europe and the company to consider sharing doses of the shot. At the same time, Europe’s problems with the AstraZeneca vaccine are deepening, with at least 10 countries suspending use of the shot over safety concerns.

Brazil surpassed India in infections, retaking the post of second hardest-hit country in the world.

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U.S. Passes 100 Million Doses; California Eases: Virus Update

Brazil Passes India in Infections (4:18 p.m. NY)

Brazil surpassed India in coronavirus infections, retaking the post of second hardest-hit country in the world, as it rushes to contain the spread of the virus that’s wreaking havoc across the vast Latin American nation.

The country reported 85,663 new cases on Friday, pushing the total to 11,363,380. The number of deaths rose by 2,216, bringing the tally to 275,105. Now, Brazil trails only the U.S. in deaths and infections globally.

While a mix of aggressive social distancing restrictions and mass vaccinations have caused infections to decline across much of the world in recent weeks, Brazil is currently going through its worst phase of the pandemic.

California Eases Curbs (4:13 p.m. NY)

California said that 13 counties will be able to move on Sunday from the state’s purple, or most restrictive tier, to the red tier following a decline in coronarivus cases. The counties entering the lower tier, the second-most restrictive, include highly-populated Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino. The shift means restaurants, museums and movie theaters will be allowed to open for indoor guests, subject to 25% capacity limitations. Los Angeles County separately announced it would allow that starting Monday.

“What that means, practically, is that California is making good strides on its commitment to delivering doses to the hardest-hit communities in our state,” said Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary.

U.S. Restricts Lilly Antibody Orders (4:01 p.m. NY)

U.S. health officials have restricted orders of Eli Lilly and Co.’s single-antibody therapy in three states on concerns about efficacy against a new coronavirus variant identified in California earlier this year.

The limit on Lilly’s bamlanivimab affects California, Arizona and Nevada, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response said Thursday in a statement. Government officials are continuing to study whether to recommend the drug in areas where the variant, called CAL.20C, is prevalent.

Amazon to Close Canadian Facility (3:49 p.m. NY)

Amazon.com Inc. has been ordered to close a facility outside Toronto for two weeks as public health officials worry about rising Covid-19 cases inside the complex.

While the rate of Covid-19 infection has been falling in the Peel region in the past few weeks, the rate inside the Brampton, Ontario, fulfillment center “has been increasing significantly,” the local health authority said Friday in a statement. Every employee at the site may have experienced “high-risk exposure,” the agency said.

U.S. Hits 100-Million Dose Mark (3:28 p.m. NY)

The U.S. has achieved a milestone of administering more than 100 million Covid-19 shots, with 66 million people getting at least a first dose of the vaccine.

About 2.3 million doses a day are being given in the U.S., a figure that is likely to rise significantly in coming weeks with the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine. President Joe Biden has pledged there will be enough vaccine doses for any American adult who wants one by the end of May, an estimate that matches a Bloomberg analysis of drugmakers’ delivery timetables.

IOC Defends Buying Chinese Vaccines (3:26 p.m. NY)

The International Olympic Committee defended its offer to buy Covid-19 vaccines from China after the announcement drew criticism by human rights activists.

“The only question there which counts is: is it effective and does it not have any side effects?” IOC President Thomas Bach said at a news conference Friday. The IOC is taking human rights in China “very seriously” and addressing the matter “within our remit,” including monitoring supply chains and labor rights issues within host-city contracts, he said.

Colorado Lowers Vaccine Age to 50 (2:49 p.m. NY)

Colorado will lower the minimum age for Covid-19 vaccines to 50 on March 19, Governor Jared Polis said at a Friday news conference in Denver. The state government estimates all residents will be eligible in mid-April, Polis said. Colorado has suffered 6,024 deaths since the pandemic started a year ago, the governor said, with 303 people currently hospitalized statewide.

U.S. Won’t Share Astra Stockpile (2:13 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden’s administration is holding on to its stockpile of AstraZeneca PLC vaccines, even though the shot isn’t authorized for U.S. use, top aides said Friday -- rebuffing pressure from Europe and the company to consider sharing doses of the shot.

“We have a small inventory of AstraZeneca so that, if approved, we can get that inventory out to the American people as quickly as possible,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said at a press briefing Friday. “We’re rightly focused on getting Americans vaccinated as soon as possible.”

‘Quad’ Promises More Vaccines (1:20 p.m. NY)

The leaders of the U.S., India, Japan and Australia wrapped up their first virtual summit vowing to promote security in the Indo-Pacific, expand efforts to produce Covid-19 vaccines and coordinate efforts on issues including climate change and disaster relief.

A joint statement Friday from the so-called Quad pledged to support efforts to ramp up vaccine manufacturing in the region. Specifically, that includes an effort to bolster vaccine output in India by as many as a billion doses by 2022.

Italy Faces New Lockdown (1:14 p.m. NY)

Prime Minister Mario Draghi promised to triple the pace of vaccinations as most of Italy prepares to go into a new lockdown, a year after the country shut down to contain the spread of Covid-19 for the first time.

The prospect of stringent new restrictions to daily life is an unwelcome case of deja vu for Italians still reeling from last spring’s lockdown and angered by the sluggish pace of the vaccine roll-out so far.

Draghi, with a reputation for technocratic efficiency, came to power last month with the expectation that he’d end the emergency and help kickstart the economy.

WHO Backs Continued Astra Use (12:55 p.m. NY)

The World Health Organization said immunizations with the AstraZeneca vaccine should continue even after at least 10 nations suspended its use over possible blood clotting.

An expert group is assessing the reports of clots in some people who received doses of the inoculation from two batches. Unless a clear link is established, there’s no reason to stop injections, the group said, echoing the comments of Europe’s drug regulator.

“There will be people who’ve been immunized who will die of other causes, and so far the preliminary data we’ve seen doesn’t lead to a causal relationship,” said Mariangela Simao, assistant director-general for drug access, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

Ireland Outbreak at ‘Delicate Point’ (12:54 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported the most new cases since March 1, with a top health ministry adviser warning the the virus situation in the country is at a “delicate point.” There were 646 new cases reported Friday, with 10 deaths. While the country has made “extraordinary progress,” there are the same number of people in the hospital now as at the peak of the previous wave in October, Philip Nolan told RTE Radio. “We are making progress but in a very precarious position,” he added.

Michigan to Open Shots to All Adults (12:26 p.m. NY)

Michigan said it would begin vaccinating all people 16 years and older starting April 5. The accelerated timetable was released as Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that a mass-vaccination site, capable of administering 6,000 doses a day, would open March 24 at Ford Field in Detroit. The site was chosen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will be run in cooperation with local authorities.

On Thursday, Biden announced the goal of making all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1. Earlier this week, Alaska became the first state to open vaccine eligibility to all adults, effective immediately.

Greece Extends Lockdown (11:50 a.m. NY)

Greece extended the lockdown in high risk areas by one week to March 22. The areas include the capital Athens and the second-largest city of Thessaloniki. While schools in these areas are already closed, those in lower risk areas will also close for two weeks, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said Friday. The nation’s positive test rate is 4.5%, the highest in 2021, Health Ministry officials said. Occupancy in intensive care units for virus patients in the capital’s Attica region is 92%, they said.

WHO Lists J&J for Emergency Use (11:09 a.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is now listed for emergency use in all countries, and is the first the World Health Organization has cleared as a single-dose regimen. The WHO will convene an expert group next week to formulate recommendation on the use of the inoculation. Covax, a facility that aims for the equitable distribution of vaccines, has ordered 500 million doses of the shot.

Swiss Unsure on Reopening (9:39 a.m. NY)

The Swiss government said it’s still unclear when it will be able to further ease coronavirus measures. It will decide March 19 on how to proceed, according to a statement Friday. The government said last month that it’s considering, among other things, opening restaurant terraces from March 22 if the situation allows.

Switzerland reported 1,333 new cases Friday, with the seven-day average up 14% from a week ago.

Hungary Pays More for Chinese Shot (9:30 a.m. NY)

Hungary paid 30 euros a dose ($35.80) for the Chinese company Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine, apparently paying much more per shot than for western alternatives that the European Union has purchased and approved for use.

Hungary is scheduled to pay 150 million euros for 5 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine, according to the purchase agreement Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas posted on Facebook on Thursday. The contract is between an intermediary and the government, so it’s unclear what price Sinopharm asked for per dose.

The price compares with $9.95 per dose Hungary paid directly to Russia for its Sputnik V vaccine. The EU initially agreed to pay Pfizer-BioNTech 15.5 euros a dose, Reuters reported in November, while AstraZeneca prices were reported to be a fraction of that. The EU doesn’t disclose the price it paid for vaccines. Hungary on Friday announced it has ordered 4.36 million doses of the single-shot vaccine of Johnson & Johnson.

Austria Accuses EU of Secret Deals (6:19 a.m. NY)

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz accused the European Union of allowing an opaque “bazaar” for vaccine doses. Secret deals between nations and pharmaceutical companies run contrary to the policy of inoculating the bloc’s population equally across countries, Kurz said Friday at a press conference in Vienna.

Malta and the Netherlands were among countries with significantly higher access to vaccine doses than countries like Bulgaria and Croatia,he said.

Death After Astra Shot Probed (6:21 a.m. NY)

Norwegian health authorities plan to conduct an investigation after a reported death following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Norwegian Medicines Agency said it hasn’t been concluded that there is any link between the vaccine and the death, and there’s no suspicion that the person died from a blood clot.

Germany Near Third Wave: Expert (5:17 p.m. HK)

Germany is at the start of a third wave of Covid-19 infections, said Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute. Cases are rising rapidly among youths younger than 15 years, Wieler said at a press conference, adding that the country is seeing more outbreaks in nurseries than in late 2020.

The number of patients requiring hospitalization is also increasing, and some states are seeing an increase in the number of patients in intensive care units. There are signs the B.1.1.7 strain is behind the increase in nursery outbreaks, Wieler said.

Russia Says Vaccine Works on Variant (5:15 p.m. HK)

Testing shows the Sputnik V vaccine is highly effective against the U.K. Covid-19 strain, Interfax reported, citing Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. The vaccine’s effectiveness against the U.K. variant didn’t significantly differ from its results preventing infection from the original strain, according to Murashko.

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