U.S. Vaccine Hesitancy Cited; Lab Origin Rejected: Virus Update
A student wearing a protective mask uses hand sanitizer at a public state school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg)

U.S. Vaccine Hesitancy Cited; Lab Origin Rejected: Virus Update

Only about half of U.S. adults surveyed late last year said they were certain or very likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new report from by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A World Health Organization investigation in China found that the coronavirus most likely jumped to humans through an animal or frozen wildlife products, and a theory that it resulted from a laboratory leak is “extremely unlikely.”

Israel said almost all of its virus patients who died in the past 30 days weren’t vaccinated. The U.K. outlined plans for restrictions designed to prevent new strains entering the country. Ireland reported the fewest new cases since Dec. 19, even as the government plotted more travel restrictions to hold off new variants.

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U.S. Vaccine Hesitancy Cited; Lab Origin Rejected: Virus Update

Astra Vaccine Urged for South Africa (4:30 p.m. NY)

The lead researcher of the South African trial of AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine urged authorities in the country to continue using the shot to cut death and hospitalization rates and the chance of further virus mutations.

Early data of a small phase trial showed that AstraZeneca’s vaccine has limited efficacy against mild disease caused by the B.1.351 variant that’s now dominant in South Africa, prompting the government to suspend plans to give it to health workers. The study didn’t determine whether it protects against severe Covid-19 cases and deaths because most participants were “young healthy adults,” according to the company.

U.S. Vaccine Hesitancy Cited in CDC Report (2:05 p.m. NY)

Only about half of U.S. adults surveyed late last year said they were certain or very likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new report from by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, released Tuesday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, surveyed 3,541 people in September and 2,033 individuals in December. The first Covid-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11. A similar vaccine made by Moderna Inc. was cleared for emergency-use shortly thereafter.

A greater proportion of people indicated that they planned to get a vaccine in December than in September. But the finding showed that more work needed to be done to address concerns about the vaccines after they were cleared for use, said agency researchers who co-wrote the report.

Pfizer Plant in Belgium Resumes Production (2 p.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. said it has resumed manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine it developed in partnership with BioNTech SE at its plant in Belgium after temporarily reducing production to upgrade the facility’s production lines, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A Pfizer spokeswoman said Tuesday the changes in Puurs, Belgium, have finished, and during the week of Jan. 25 the company resumed its original delivery schedule of doses to the European Union, the Journal said. Pfizer also plans to increase deliveries next week to meet its contractual obligations for the first quarter, the spokeswoman said.

Irish Outbreak Continues to Ease (1:45 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported the fewest new coronavirus cases since Dec. 19, even as the government plots more travel restrictions to hold off new variants arriving in the country. There were 556 newly confirmed cases, the health ministry said, with 68 deaths. Ireland’s government plans tighter restrictions on passengers arriving from South Africa and Brazil, while it will make it mandatory for some people quarantine in designated hotels when they arrive in the country.

U.K. Advisers Raise Concerns on New Variants (1:40 p.m. NY)

A U.K. government advisory panel raised concerns over a further mutation of the so-called Kent variant, while reassuring the public that vaccines should still provide protection.

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group said the additional E484K mutation of the B.1.1.7 Kent virus strain has been designated a “variant of concern”, according to a government statement. The mutation was first identified in Bristol, England.

The mutation has also been found on another original strain of the virus -- known as A.23.1 -- which the panel has now classified as a “variant under investigation.”

The E48K mutation has been seen in a number of variants, including those from South Africa and Brazil. Public Health England has found 76 cases of the two new variants, the government said.

Greece Imposes Stricter Lockdown (1:05 p.m. NY)

The Greek government has reintroduced a stricter lockdown in Athens and the surrounding Attica region in a bid to curb a recent spike in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The area accounts for around half of Greece’s population of almost 11 million.

Cuomo Says U.S. to Boost Doses by Another 5% (1 p.m. NY)

The U.S. government plans to increase vaccine allocations by another 5% for the next three weeks, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The additional 5%, announced on a White House call with governors Tuesday, follows an initial 20% increase and then a subsequent 5%. Cuomo, during a call afterward with reporters, said he doesn’t expect a major supply boost until Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is produced.

Dutch Parliament Extending Curfew (12:30 p.m. NY)

A majority in the lower house of Dutch parliament agreed with a government proposal to extend a nighttime curfew until early March.

The measure, which triggered riots when first introduced at the end of January, is added to the country’s lockdown that was already prolonged. Despite decreasing overall infection numbers on a weekly basis since the end of last year, Prime Minister Mark Rutte last week warned of “an inevitable third wave” after the Dutch health agency estimated that a more contagious virus strain first discovered in the U.K. accounted for about two-thirds of all new infections in the week ending Feb. 2.

Astra CEO: Shot Should Prevent Severe Disease (12 p.m. NY)

AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine should protect people against severe disease from the South Africa strain of the virus, according to the company’s chief executive officer.

Speaking at a World Health Organization meeting Tuesday, Pascal Soriot said that while a recent study showing the vaccine may not prevent mild disease was concerning, that didn’t mean more serious illness wouldn’t be stopped.

The South Africa results are “of course a concern,” said Soriot. But “the patients in the study were patients with mild disease, and we believe the vaccine should still protect against severe disease. Efficacy against the disease varies on severity of infection.”

Soriot also said the company had capacity to deliver 100 million vaccine doses in February globally. That should increase to 200 million doses a month from April, he said.

NYC Surpasses 1 Million Doses (10:55 a.m. NY)

New York City has surpassed 1 million vaccine doses, a major milestone but missing a goal that Mayor Bill de Blasio had hoped to reach by the end of January.

“The challenge for us constantly is the lack of supply,” he said in a briefing on Tuesday. “This is a really good sign of what we could do in this city, but we could be doing a lot more.”

Much of the U.S., including New York City, faces vaccine shortages and appealed to the federal government and pharmaceutical companies for more doses.

Cases continue to decline in the city. The seven-day average of residents who tested positive dropped to 8.09% on Sunday, down from the 9% highs in January. But the rate of new hospitalizations per 100,000 remain high, reaching 5.18 on Sunday.

Serbia Taps Chinese Vaccines (10:15 a.m. NY)

Serbia will receive additional 500,000 Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm on Wednesday, after importing 50,000 Sputnik V vaccines from Russia on Tuesday, as part of efforts to have total of 2 million shots by the end of February, President Aleksandar Vucic said. Other deliveries will include a further 50,000 Russian vaccines, expected later this month, along with 88,000 shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and between 125,000 and 150,000 vaccines from AstraZeneca, he said.

Glaxo, Sanofi Vaccine Contract Published by EU (9:47 a.m. NY)

The European Commission published its contract with GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi. The heavily redacted agreement for as many as 300 million doses shows the companies mainly plan to use their own European factories, with the option to bring on additional third-party capacity if needed.

Israel Patients Who Died Weren’t Vaccinated (9:18 a.m. NY)

More than 97% of the 1,536 coronavirus patients who died in Israel in the past 30 days hadn’t been vaccinated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. He urged the public to get shots, adding that the government is looking at ways to provide incentives, such as giving the vaccinated access to cafes, museums, theaters and hotels.

More than a third of the 9.3 million people who live in Israel have had at least one dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine, and about one-fifth are fully vaccinated.

CDC Plans Vaccination Forum: NBC (8:44 a.m. NY)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans town halls aimed at building trust and confidence in the vaccine, NBC reported, citing a Biden administration official.

Austria Imposes Tests on Mutation Hot Spot (8:43 a.m. NY)

Austria is requiring mandatory tests for people leaving the Alpine province of Tyrol, the biggest European hot spot for the South African mutation. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the resistance of the variant to the AstraZeneca vaccine makes it significantly more dangerous than the British mutation.

The requirement comes into force Friday for an initial 10 days.

Nigerian Business Steps In to Buy Vaccines (8:33 a.m. NY)

Some of Nigeria’s biggest companies plan to raise as much as $100 million to purchase coronavirus vaccines as the government of Africa’s most populous nation is facing increasing criticism for not having secured deals with drugmakers.

Walgreens, Uber Partner on Rides to Shots (8:30 a.m. NY)

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. formed a partnership to offer free rides to vaccine appointments, the companies announced Tuesday.

Uber will pilot free rides in U.S. cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and El Paso. People will receive an email to schedule a ride after they register for immunizations on the Walgreens website. The companies said they will also work with the National Urban League to address vaccine hesitancy.

U.K. Threatens 10 Years Jail for Rule Breakers (8:21 a.m. NY)

Passengers traveling to the U.K. will face tougher quarantine measures, including enforced stays in hotels, repeated tests and the threat of fines and even jail. Health Secretary Matt Hancock outlined plans for restrictions coming into force in England from Feb. 15, in an attempt to prevent new strains entering the country.

Travelers arriving from 33 nations on the government’s “red list” will be forced to pay 1,750 pounds ($2,410) per person for solo travelers to isolate in a hotel for 10 days.

Lithuania Won’t Buy Russia Shot (7:43 a.m. NY)

Lithuania won’t purchase vaccines from Russia even if the shot is approved by the EU. Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said she has “no doubt” that Russia’s attempts to sell the vaccine before fully immunizing its own people is “yet another geopolitical game.”

Azerbaijan to Host Combined Vaccine Trials (7:23 a.m. NY)

Azerbaijan’s Health Ministry granted approval to conduct clinical trials of combining the Sputnik V and AstraZeneca vaccines in the country, Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, said in an emailed statement.

WHO Rules Out Lab Theory on Virus (6:24 a.m. NY)

A World Health Organization investigation in China found that the coronavirus most likely jumped to humans through an animal host or frozen wildlife products, and that there was no evidence of significant outbreaks in the country before December 2019.

The theory the virus came from a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely,” Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO official, told reporters Tuesday at a joint WHO-China briefing in Wuhan.

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