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Pfizer Seeks Easier Storage; G-7 Boosts Covax: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- Pfizer and BioNTech asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow an easier storage protocol that could simplify the distribution of their vaccine. The two vaccines approved in the U.S. have “reassuring safety profiles,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. CVS will partner with Lyft to offer free rides to vaccine appointments.Group of Seven nations are giving a major boost to Covax, the global initiative to fund vaccinations in lower-income countries, indicating that momentum is building toward a coordinated effort to address the pandemic.The U.S. plans to contribute as much as $4 billion to the initiative while France will donate 5% of its secured supplies. The U.K. also will announce its commitment during a G-7 call Friday, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will announce a doubling of European Union cash for the program.Key Developments:Global Tracker: Cases exceed 110.4 million; deaths pass 2.4 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 193 million shots given worldwideCuomo’s grip on N.Y. starts to crack in furor over Covid deathsA U.S. vaccine surge is coming, with millions of doses promisedPfizer asks the FDA to approve easier storage protocols for its shotA single Pfizer shot was found to reduce infections by 85%Why delaying the second Covid shot is messy: QuickTakeSubscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.Italy Reports Most Cases in Month (11: 03 a.m. NY)Italy reported 15,479 cases, up from 13,762 a day earlier and the most in a month. Patients in intensive care units reached 2,059, rising for a second day after they had reached a three-month low.The situation is stable, with an initial worsening in the speed of the contagion, Giovanni Rezza, head of virus prevention at Italy’s Health Ministry, said at a press conference.The British strain is already widespread in the country and will likely become dominant in the coming weeks, he added. The country needs to act aggressively with local lockdowns against new strains that aren’t widespread yet, such as the Brazilian one, present in some central areas like Umbria, and the South African one, Rezza said.CDC Calls Vaccines Safe (11 a.m. NY)A month of safety monitoring indicated “reassuring safety profiles” for the two coronavirus vaccines cleared in the U.S., according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. The analysis follows 13.8 million doses administered through Jan. 13. One CDC monitoring system recorded less than 7,000 reports of adverse events, and of those, 90% were not serious, with known side effects like headache, fatigue and dizziness among the most common.The severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis occurred in 4.5 cases for each million doses administered, similar to levels associated with other widely used vaccines. The CDC received reports of 113 deaths through Jan. 13, largely among the 1 million long-term care residents vaccinated in that period. The causes and rates of deaths were consistent with the overall level of mortality, and “did not indicate any unexpected pattern that might suggest a causal relationship with vaccination,” the CDC said.TSA Looks to Hire More Officers (10: 36 a.m. NY)The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is looking to hire more than 6,000 transportation security officers nationwide by this summer, citing an expected boost in seasonal travel and Covid-19 vaccination progress as potential catalysts.The TSA will begin recruiting new employees at approximately 430 airports across the U.S., according to the agency statement.Astra-Oxford 12-Week Vaccine Gap Optimal (10: 33 a.m. NY)A three-month interval between doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford provides the best protection, a peer reviewed study confirms.The data, first published earlier this month and largely confirmed by the review, found efficacy rose to 81% with a 12-week gap between shots, compared with 55% when the interval was less than six weeks. The results support the U.K. dosing approach, which allows for up to 3 months between doses.CVS, Lyft to Offer Free Rides to Vaccine Appointments (8: 53 a.m. NY)CVS Health Corp. will partner with Lyft Inc. to offer free rides to vaccine appointments, the company announced Friday. The drugstore chain plans to give shots at mobile vaccination vans and community clinics starting this spring. Lyft will provide free or discounted rides to people who need transportation to these sites, CVS said in a statement. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. announced a similar partnership with Uber Technologies Inc. earlier this month.Portugal May Get 9 Million Doses by End-June (7: 40 a.m. NY)Portugal may probably receive about 8 million to 9 million vaccine doses by the end of the first half instead of the 11 million doses that were initially planned, Secretary of State for Health Antonio Lacerda Sales said. That quantity may be enough to vaccinate 3.6 million people, Sales said on Friday in comments broadcast by RTP. Even with the reduction, the country is “very close” to what was foreseen in the initial plan, he said.Pfizer Asks FDA to Approve Easier Storage (7 a.m. NY)Pfizer and BioNTech asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow their vaccine to be stored for two weeks at temperatures found in normal pharmaceutical freezers, a change that could simplify distribution for the shot.The partners submitted new data showing stability when the vaccine is stored at minus 25-to-minus 15 degrees Celsius (-13°F to 5°F), they said in a statement on Friday. Current protocol is for storage for up to six months in an ultra-cold freezer at temperatures of -80ºC to -60ºC and shipping in a special thermal container.Greece Issues Vaccine Certificate (6: 30 a.m. NY)Greece has started to issue an online certificate of vaccination against Covid-19, according to the country’s Health and Digital ministries. The certificate will be a medical document that will serve as a certificate of medical practice and will be issued to those who have received both doses of the vaccine.To avoid forgery, it will have a digital stamp, a verification code and a QR code.African Union Secures 300 Million Doses of Sputnik V (5: 55 p.m. HK)The African Union has secured 300 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. The shots will be available for 12 months starting in May, the AU said in a statement on Friday. Finance has been arranged for countries that want to purchase the vaccine.The deal adds to the 270 million doses the AU has arranged to get from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and AstraZeneca.Bulgaria Plans to Step Up Vaccinations (5: 30 p.m. HK)Bulgaria, which has by far the EU’s slowest vaccination pace, is planning to organize “green corridors” for everyone willing to take the jab along with the priority groups in order to speed up the process, the government in Sofia said. With low trust in vaccines, along with poor information campaign, the bloc’s poorest country has so far vaccinated less than 1% of its population.Doctors have complained that only a third of those scheduled to take a shot show up, while others that have lined up for vaccination in the next phases of the government plan have to wait.German Health Official Warns Downward Infection Trend Halted (5 p.m. HK)The trend of falling Covid-19 infections in Germany appears to have come to a halt and the country is again at a “turning point,” according to the head of the RKI public-health institute.“The number of cases seems to be stagnating and the seven-day incidence rate is not falling so quickly and is even rising in one state, that of Thuringia,” RKI President Lothar Wieler said at a news conference in Berlin, underscoring the risk of the pandemic worsening again due to faster-spreading mutations.Health Minister Jens Spahn said that it’s clear that the virus “is not simply giving up” and the “sideways movement” in the infection rate means caution is required if Germany decides to ease lockdown restrictions.“We have to be very prudent and careful in opening up so as not to put at risk what we’ve achieved so far,” Spahn said, adding that Germany’s vaccine campaign is gathering pace all the time.Cathay Crew to Work 21-Day Stints to Avoid Quarantine (4: 29 p.m. HK)Cathay Pacific Airways is taking extreme measures to cope with new rules that will require flight crew to quarantine in Hong Kong from Saturday, introducing a rotation policy that puts staff out of action for almost one month at a time after they’ve completed 21-day shifts.Crew who volunteer to take part in the airline’s so-called closed loop plan must isolate at Cathay’s Headland Hotel whenever they return to Hong Kong during their 21-day duty cycle. Once the three-week shift is over, they’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days in a hotel in Taikoo Shing on Hong Kong Island. Then they’ll get 14 days time off, bringing the full duty cycle to 49 days.Hungary to Ramp Up Vaccinations (3: 09 p.m. HK)Hungary is about to boost its vaccination rate to battle a dangerous surge in infections, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. With hospitalizations related to Covid-19 on a steady increase, the country is at a dangerous juncture in the race to make sure inoculations outpace infections, the premier told state radio in an interview. The government is deploying vaccines from Russia, on top of shots bought via the European Union, and it has also secured supplies of China’s Sinopharm product. Hospital capacity remains ample, Orban said.EU’s Cash Commitment to Covax Will Double (2: 59 p.m. HK)European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will use a Group of Seven call on Friday to announce a doubling of the European Union’s cash commitment for the Covax program, according to an EU official familiar with the matter, bringing the bloc’s contribution to the vaccine supplier for poorer nations to 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion).G-7 nations including the U.S., U.K. and France are expected to pledge donations of vaccine supplies during the call.Kenya Approves AstraZeneca Shot (1: 52 p.m. HK)Kenyan regulators approved the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc for use in the East African nation, the Daily Nation reported. Kenya will start receiving the doses next week and start its inoculation program in March, the Nairobi-based newspaper said, citing Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi. It’s procuring the vaccine despite concerns about its limited efficacy against mild to moderate illness caused by a variant identified in South Africa.U.S. Reiterates Food Is Unlikely Covid Source (12: 38 p.m. HK)The U.S. reiterated that food and food packaging are highly unlikely sources of coronavirus transmission, with the Food and Drug Administration saying there is “no credible evidence” to support a link.The FDA noted in a statement Thursday that Covid-19 is a respiratory illness spread from person to person, unlike food-borne diseases spread through contaminated food. While there have been a few reports of the virus detected on food and packaging, the FDA said “the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.”The statement is in contrast to the approach taken by China, which has been testing food imports and banning suppliers whose shipments were found to be contaminated. A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the virus said last week that cold-chain food products were a likely transmission route.U.K. Plans to Donate Surplus Vaccines (7: 55 a.m. HK)Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Friday that the U.K. will donate surplus coronavirus vaccines to developing countries to boost the global battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.The “majority” of any future U.K. surplus coronavirus vaccines will be shared with the World Health Organization-backed Covax program, Johnson’s office said late Thursday in a statement. That’s on top of the 548 million pounds ($766 million) the country has already donated to the program, which is aimed at supplying some of the world’s poorest nations with inoculations.Johnson on Friday will host a video call among the leaders of the Group of Seven nations, during which he’ll encourage them to increase their Covax funding, according to the statement.Single Pfizer Shot Reduced Illness in Health Workers (7: 35 a.m. HK)A single dose of the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE significantly reduced Covid-19 symptoms in the first four weeks after injection, according to an analysis.Among health-care workers who got the vaccine, symptomatic infections were reduced by 85% in the 15 to 28 days after the first dose, compared with those who didn’t get a shot, according to the report in The Lancet medical journal. While most workers received a second dose on schedule -- about three weeks after the first -- the booster would only have just started to kick in by the end of the study, so it was essentially looking at the effects of one dose, researchers said Thursday.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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