COVID-19 vaccine syringe

Global COVID-19 vaccine race and related developments

LATEST UPDATE: January 20, 2021 - 7:12pm
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1 day ago

Japan aims to start vaccinating the general public against the coronavirus in May -- just two months before the postponed Olympics -- following targeted jabs for the most vulnerable, reports said Wednesday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said the government is hoping the majority of adults will be vaccinated by July, when the Games are due to open.

The country has agreed with pharmaceutical firms to receive enough doses for all 126 million residents and is working to approve the Pfizer jab as the first to be used in Japan from next month. —  AFP

1 day ago

Mexican authorities are investigating the theft of several coronavirus vaccines from a public hospital, the army said Tuesday, underscoring the challenges of distributing the shots across the crime-plagued country.

Mexico, which has one of the world's highest COVID-19 death tolls, has deployed the military to guard the vaccines and prevent them falling into criminals' hands.

The army said that the stolen vaccines were under the control of a public health institution in a hospital in central Morelos state whose security is overseen by a private company.

"This theft could have been a dishonest act of self-interest by a member of the hospital's vaccination team," it said in a statement. — AFP

January 16, 2021

Serbia becomes one of the first European countries to receive a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday when one million doses of a jab produced by Sinopharm arrived at Belgrade airport.

President Aleksandar Vucic posted a picture of himself on Instagram, standing next to the plane carrying the vaccine.

"We are proud of our friendship with China," he was quoted as saying by Beta news agency, telling reporters that he hoped to be inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine in six or seven days. — AFP

January 14, 2021

Both Pope Francis and his predecessor, former pope Benedict XVI, have received the coronavirus vaccine, the Vatican says on Thursday.

"I can confirm that as part of the Vatican City State vaccination programme to date, the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered to Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus," spokesman Matteo Bruni says. — AFP

January 13, 2021

President Joko Widodo receives the first COVID-19 vaccine in Indonesia.  The shot, from China's Sinovac, kicks off the massive immunization campaign in the country dealing with one of most number of cases in the region.

Indonesia opted to secure millions of doses from the Chinese pharmaceutical company whose lack of transparency about its vaccine sparks concerns. While the Philippines ordered 25 million doses, Indonesia secured 125.5 million from Sinovac.

Indonesia is also expecting 50 million doses from Astrazeneca, 150 million from American biotech firm Novovax, 60 million from Sinopharm and 20 million from CanSino, making it the third territory in the world with the most number of confirmed doses after Europe and the United States. (Handout photo)

January 13, 2021

The Chinese-developed Coronavac COVID-19 vaccine has demonstrated a 50 percent efficacy following tests in Brazil, the organization in charge of its production in the South American country says.

Coronavac has been given to frontline health care workers in close contact with coronavirus patients.

The Butantan Institute repeated its claim from last week that the vaccine is 78% effective in preventing mild cases that needed treatment and showed 100% efficacy in staving off moderate to serious cases. — AFP

January 12, 2021

Switzerland gives the green light Tuesday to the Moderna vaccine against the new coronavirus — the second jab it has authorised for use, joining the vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech.

The Swissmedic regulatory authority said the vaccine from US firm Moderna had shown a "high efficacy rate", and could be deployed immediately.

The neighbouring European Union gave its approval to the Moderna vaccine last Wednesday, with Britain doing likewise on Friday. —  AFP

January 12, 2021

AstraZeneca and Oxford University have applied for authorisation for their coronavirus vaccine in the EU with a decision possible by January 29, the European Medicines Agency says on Tuesday.

The jab would be the third available for the 27-nation European Union after the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna drugs, as the bloc struggles to speed up the rollout.

"EMA has received an application for conditional marketing authorisation for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University," the Amsterdam-based regulator says in a statement. —  AFP

January 11, 2021

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar formally signed Monday the multilateral agreement with AstraZeneca for the purchase of 410,000 doses of vaccines worth P100 million.

Salazar said she signed the agreement after the city council in a special session last week gave her the authority to enter the agreement for the purchase of the vaccines with AstraZeneca through the national government.

Salazar said the initial acquisition of 410,000 vaccines is intended for the 205,000 residents as part of the city's vaccination program against coronavirus disease (COVID-19). — The STAR/Roel Pareño

January 9, 2021

Officials say the manufacturers of two COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac and Oxford-AstraZeneca filed the first applications Friday for regulatory approval in hard-hit Brazil.

Federal health regulator Anvisa now has 10 days to respond to the applications, though it said that could include asking the sponsors for more information.

One application was submitted by the Butantan Institute, a public health center in Sao Paulo that is working with Sinovac to test and produce its CoronaVac vaccine. — AFP

January 6, 2021

The European Medicines Agency says on Wednesday that it had given the green light for US firm Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, the second jab for the disease to be cleared for use in the EU.

"EMA has recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 in people from 18 years of age," the Amsterdam-based regulator says in a statement. —  AFP

January 6, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says in his first address of the new year that he was "frustrated" by the slow pace of COVID-19 inoculations across Canada, three weeks into a vaccination campaign.

The Canadian government has so far distributed 424,500 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines -- the only ones authorized to date in Canada -- to its provinces and territories responsible for the vaccination program, according to official figures.

But only about 148,000 doses of vaccine have been administered so far, according to local media. — AFP

January 5, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the possibility of jointly producing coronavirus vaccines in a phone call, the Kremlin says Tuesday. 

"Issues of cooperation in combating the coronavirus pandemic were discussed with an emphasis on the possible prospects for joint production of vaccines," the Kremlin says in a statement. —  AFP

January 5, 2021

Under mounting pressure to speed up coronavirus vaccinations, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday says he would not take "unnecessary risks" and emulate Britain's emergency drug approval.

While vaccinations are already well underway in many countries, Australia's pharmaceutical authority is not expected to rule on candidate drugs for around another month, and is aiming to administer the first doses by the end of March.

Pressed about that seemingly sluggish timetable, Morrison — who early in the pandemic boasted Australia would be "at the front of the queue" for any vaccine — suggested virus-ravaged countries like Britain had been forced to take risks with emergency approvals. —  AFP

January 5, 2021

Mexico authorizes the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for emergency use in the country, which has one of the world's highest COVID-19 death tolls.

Deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell announces on Twitter that Mexican regulators had approved the vaccine, which has also been authorized by Britain, India and Argentina.

It is the second coronavirus vaccine authorized by Mexico, which on December 24 began a mass immunization program using the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, with priority given to health workers. — AFP

January 4, 2021

Chinese drugmakers Sinopharm and Sinovac may seek emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines this week, according to Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana.

"We ask them when they will file for [emergency use authorization] with the [Food and Drug Administration] in the Philippines. Apparently, their plan right now, according to them is that they hope to file in the next few days sometime this week," Sta. Romana says.

January 4, 2021

Britain on Monday begins the mass rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, a cheap and easy to distribute shot that experts hope will help crush the pandemic.

Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old retired maintenance manager, received the jab at Oxford's Churchill Hospital, NHS England says. —  AFP

January 4, 2021

A Brazilian association of private health clinics said Sunday it was negotiating with Indian pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech to buy five million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, which India has just authorized for emergency use.

The Brazilian Association of Vaccine Clinics (ABCVAC) confirmed on its website it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian firm to purchase its Covaxin vaccine, which is currently in the final stage of clinical trials.

Any final deal would be subject to approval by Brazil's health regulator, Anvisa, which has yet to approve any vaccines against the new coronavirus. — AFP

January 3, 2021

India has authorised the emergency use of two coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and by local pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech, the country's drug regulator says Sunday.

"The... vaccines of Serum Institute (AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine) and Bharat Biotech are being approved for restricted use in emergency situations," the Drugs Controller General of India, V.G. Somani, says at a briefing.

The approval is expected to kick off one of the world's biggest vaccination drives in coming days in the country of 1.3 billion people. —  AFP

January 2, 2021

India stages nationwide drills to start one of the world's biggest coronavirus vaccination programs as the drug regulator prepared to approve the first vaccine.

A government panel on Friday recommended emergency use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot and the first injections could be given in the coming week after the Drugs Control Authority of India gives final approval. 

India, which has the world's second highest number of pandemic cases -- more than 10.2 million -- has set an ambitious target of inoculating 300 million of its 1.3 billion people by mid-2021. — AFP

December 30, 2020

A coronavirus vaccine developed by drug firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University has been approved for use in Britain, the government announced on Wednesday, paving the way for a mass rollout.

A government spokesman said it has accepted a recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) "to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for use", making Britain the first nation to approve the jab. — AFP

December 29, 2020

A group of doctors calls for safe and transparent use of vaccines for the coronavirus disease.

According to Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, it is alarming that some Filipinos are receiving vaccines against the deadly illness that have not been registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

"The success of any vaccination program is hinged on mutual trust between the public and institutions," the group says in a statement.

December 29, 2020

Argentina has launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign with the Sputnik V shots developed by Russia, the government says.

It is the first country in the Americas to use the vaccine against the pandemic.

The vaccination drive began simultaneously around the country with frontline healthcare workers given priority. — AFP

December 29, 2020

Belarus begins a vaccination drive against coronavirus using the Sputnik V jab, becoming the first country outside Russia to use the vaccine developed by Moscow.

Belarus, with a population of around 9.5 million people, has registered more than 188,000 cases of coronavirus infections and nearly 1,400 deaths.

"Today the first vaccine shipment has arrived in Belarus," says the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) which financed Sputnik V. — AFP

December 29, 2020

Hungary says it received 6,000 doses of Russia's controversial coronavirus vaccine on Monday, in a new display of Budapest's maverick vaccine policy.

"6,000 doses of Russian vaccine crossed Hungary's border with Slovakia," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says in a Facebook video message.

The consignment was taken to Budapest for a decision by Hungarian experts on how to use it, he said, without providing details on the vaccine's potential rollout. — AFP

December 29, 2020

Clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from American biotech company Novavax have begun in the United States and Mexico, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Monday. 

A similar Phase 3 trial for the same vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is also under way in the United Kingdom, where about 15,000 volunteers have been recruited.  

In the US and Mexico, the new trials will include around 30,000 volunteers over the age of 18. — AFP

December 28, 2020

Lebanon will receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines in February from Pfizer-BioNTech, the health ministry said Sunday.

"Lebanon will receive the vaccine in mid-February in instalments," it said in a statement.

"It will cover 15 percent of the population."

The ministry said it would later secure "additional vaccines" to cover another 20 percent of the population as part of an agreement with COVAX, without specifying which brand.

COVAX is an international initiative that aims to ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines for all countries. — AFP

December 27, 2020

Several EU nations were set to begin vaccinating their most vulnerable groups Sunday as a new coronavirus variant spread internationally and the WHO warned the current pandemic will not be the last.

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab arrived in hard-hit Italy, Spain and France on Saturday, ready for distribution to retirement homes and care staff.

The approval and roll-out of vaccines has boosted hopes that 2021 could bring a respite from the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.7 million people since emerging in China late last year.

However, in a video message ahead of the first International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was time to learn the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"History tells us that this will not be the last pandemic, and epidemics are a fact of life," said Tedros. — AFP

December 26, 2020

A lawmaker urges the Food and Drug Administration to issue a certificate of product registration for Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

"Gamitin nilang batayan ang mga decision ng regulatory agencies ng US, UK, European Union, Singapore, Japan, at iba pang bansa na alam ng ating FDA na may mataas na kalidad na approval process," says Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. (AKO Bicol) in a statement.

December 25, 2020

Morocco says it had ordered 65 million doses of novel coronavirus vaccine, as the North African kingdom prepared to launch a vaccination campaign targeting 25 million people.

"Preparations have reached very advanced stages," Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb says in a statement on the roll-out plans. 

"Field exercises covering all stages of the process of vaccinating citizens have been put in place." — AFP

December 25, 2020

Turkey will receive its first shipment of China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine within days as preliminary domestic tests showed it was 91% effective, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says.

Ankara in the next few days will also sign a deal with Pfizer/BioNTech for 4.5 million doses, with the option to buy 30 million more from the US pharmaceutical giant and its German partner, Koca says. — AFP

December 24, 2020

Mexico on Wednesday became the first Latin American country to receive coronavirus vaccines for mass immunization against a disease that has had a devastating impact across much of the region.

The government plans to start inoculations on Thursday after the first 3,000 doses produced by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech arrived by courier plane from Belgium.

The vaccines were whisked to a military installation in the south of Mexico City, guarded by a security escort to prevent them from falling into the hands of the country's powerful criminal gangs.

"Today is the beginning of the end of this pandemic," Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters at the airport. — AFP

December 23, 2020

Serbia will begin vaccinating people against COVID-19 on Thursday, President Aleksandar Vucic says Wednesday, making the Balkan state one of the first in Europe to launch a campaign with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. 

Officials say Serbia has received nearly 5,000 doses of the vaccine, which is already in use in the United States and Britain.

Meanwhile European Union countries plan to roll out the vaccine on December 27. —  AFP

December 23, 2020

Switzerland starts its COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Wednesday, with a care home resident in her 90s becoming the first person in the country to receive the jab.

The woman, who lives in the Lucerne region in central Switzerland, was given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, just four days after it was approved by national regulators.

"I am very satisfied that we have now been able to start vaccinations in the canton of Lucerne," the region's health services chief Guido Graf says in a statement. -- AFP

December 23, 2020

Mexico will begin COVID-19 immunizations on Thursday, a day after the country receives its first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, Undersecretary of Health Hugo Lopez-Gatell says Tuesday.

"Tomorrow (Wednesday) the first consignment of the Pfizer vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 arrives," he says on Twitter. 

"There will be a press opportunity and then the vaccine will be safeguarded until its use on Thursday, December 24, the day vaccinations start."  — AFP

December 22, 2020

US President-elect Joe Biden received a Covid-19 vaccine live on television Monday in a campaign to boost Americans' confidence in the jabs -- and in marked contrast to President Donald Trump's mixed messaging.

The 78-year-old incoming president got the Pfizer vaccine at the Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware. His wife Jill received the shot earlier, the presidential transition team said.

Biden told Americans "there's nothing to worry about" when they get vaccinated and that in the meantime they should keep wearing masks and "listen to the experts." — AFP

December 21, 2020

Interpol chief Juergen Stock predicts Monday a sharp rise in crimes with robbers seeking to get their hands on precious vaccines aimed at stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

"With vaccines rolling out, crime will increase dramatically," Stock tells business weekly WirtschaftsWoche. "We will see thefts and warehouse break-ins and attacks on vaccine shipments." —  AFP

December 18, 2020

China plans to start opening its vaccination program to members of the public in southwestern Sichuan province early next year, health officials says, despite the inoculations not yet receiving official approval.

At least one million people have already received a jab in China after vaccine candidates were approved for "emergency use", but so far they have been limited to priority groups such as state employees and international students. — AFP

December 18, 2020

A US panel of experts votes to recommend emergency approval of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for six million doses to start shipping as soon as this weekend.

The Food and Drug Administration is now expected to imminently grant an emergency use authorization, which would make Moderna's vaccine the second to be approved in a Western country. — AFP

December 17, 2020

President Vladimir Putin says he will receive the Russian-developed Sputnik V coronavirus jab once it is approved for people his age, praising the vaccine as safe and effective. 

The 68-year-old Russian president says at his annual end-of-year press conference that he had not been vaccinated yet, but "will definitely do so as soon as it becomes possible" according to expert advice. — AFP

December 17, 2020

US experts meet to decide whether to recommend approval of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, potentially paving the way for rollout early next week.

The meeting comes after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received an emergency use authorization and the first three million doses were distributed in the world's worst-hit country this week.

Thursday's meeting will be live-streamed to the public, and will end with a vote by the two dozen independent scientists and industry representatives. — AFP 

December 16, 2020

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says Wednesday he would be the first person in the country to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as he unveiled a campaign promising free inoculations for everyone in world's fourth most-populous nation.

Wikodo's announcement comes as Indonesia battles misinformation over the virus in order to stave off a fresh wave of infections, with some 630,000 recorded by Wednesday and more than 19,000 deaths. — AFP

December 16, 2020

The EU's 27 member countries aim to start COVID-19 vaccinations on "the same day" in a sign of unity, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says. 

Her statement to the European Parliament came as pressure mounted on the bloc to catch up with the United States and Britain, which have already started inoculating people with a vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech. — AFP

December 16, 2020

A Chinese pharmaceutical company says it had agreed to buy at least 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine from German company BioNTech, subject to Beijing approving its use.

China has been rapidly developing its own COVID-19 vaccine candidates and ramping up production facilities, but local firms have also been partnering with foreign developers to supply the world's most populous country.

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group says its subsidiary had entered into an agreement with the German firm aimed at ensuring "an adequate supply" of vaccines in China, adding it will make an initial payment of 125 million euros ($152 million) before year-end for 50 million doses. — AFP

December 16, 2020

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the government to avoid political agendas in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines amid concerns raised over the plan to buy 25 million doses from Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac.

"Let's make it clear: The vaccine is a health solution, not a political favor. We should buy vaccines to protect our people from COVID-19. Not to advance anyone’s political agenda," she says.

Sinovac is among the pharma companies applying for approval to hold clinical trials for the vaccine in the Philippines.

December 16, 2020

At least a fifth of the world's population may not have access to a Covid-19 vaccine until 2022, according to a study published Wednesday, with wealthier nations reserving more than half of next year's potential doses. 

With hopes that vaccines can bring an end to a pandemic that has killed some 1.6 million people, countries including the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates have already begun rolling out immunisation programmes.    

Eager to increase their chances of having access to at least one of the dozens of vaccines in development, many nations have snapped up allocations of several different drugs. — AFP

December 15, 2020

Germany says Tuesday it wants the European Union to approve the BioNTech/Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine "before Christmas", as criticism grows of the EU health regulator's plan to make a decision by December 29 at the latest.

"The goal is to get approval before Christmas," German Health Minister Jens Spahn tells reporters. "We want to start vaccinating in Germany before the end of the year."

Britain and the United States have already approved the vaccine and started vaccinating their citizens. —  AFP

December 15, 2020

Jordan announces that it had approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, as the United States kicked off a mass vaccination drive.

The Jordanian Food and Drug Administration did not specify when it would begin the rollout of the vaccine by US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. — AFP

December 15, 2020

The head of the UN children's agency, UNICEF, calls for teachers to be among those given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccines.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on children's education around the globe. Vaccinating teachers is a critical step towards putting it back on track," UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore says in a statement.

Teachers should be "prioritized to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, once frontline health personnel and high-risk populations are vaccinated," she says. —  AFP

December 14, 2020

Facing record levels of coronavirus, the United States began shipping vaccine nationwide on Sunday as it launched a massive immunization effort, while in Germany an explosion of cases forced a return to partial lockdown.

Delivery trucks with special refrigeration equipment rolled out of a facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as part of a public-private plan to ship millions of doses of the newly approved Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to vulnerable Americans.

Delivery services FedEx and UPS are deploying fleets of trucks and planes to carry their precious cargo -- sometimes under armed guard — to all 50 states, where healthcare workers and nursing-home residents will be first in line. 

As the historical mobilization unfolds, an initial 2.9 million doses are to be delivered by Wednesday, with officials saying 20 million Americans could receive the two-shot regimen by year end, and 100 million by March. —AFP

December 13, 2020

Americans will start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, the official in charge of the distribution operation says.

General Gus Perna tells reporters the first doses will be shipped Sunday and that starting Monday morning, "We are operationally 100% confident that we will get the vaccines to the American people."

"Expect 145 sites across all the states to receive vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday. And the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine," he says. —  AFP

December 12, 2020

Peru temporarily suspends clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine made by Chinese drug giant Sinopharm after detecting neurological problems in one of its test volunteers.

The National Institute of Health says that it had decided to interrupt the trial after a volunteer had difficulty moving their arms, according to local media.

"Several days ago we signaled, as we are required, to the regulatory authorities that one of our participants (in trials) presented neurological symptoms which could correspond to a condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome," says chief researcher German Malaga in comments to the press. — AFP  

December 12, 2020

The US says it was purchasing 100 million more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Moderna, amid reports the government passed on the opportunity to secure more supply of the Pfizer jab.

The agreement brings the total number of Moderna doses bought by the US to 200 million, enough to immunize 100 million people with the two-shot regimen. — AFP

December 12, 2020

US issues emergency approval to Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine, according to statement. 

December 12, 2020

A health official says Mexico's health regulator granted emergency authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

"Mexico is the fourth country whose health regulatory agency, Cofepris, has granted emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine," says Health Undersecretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell. — AFP

December 11, 2020

France's Sanofi and Britain's GSK said Friday their COVID-19 vaccines will not be ready until the end of 2021, after interim results showed a low immune response in older adults.

"Sanofi and GSK announce a delay in their adjuvanted recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine programme to improve immune response in older adults," a statement said, adding that the vaccine's potential availability had been pushed back "from mid-2021 to Q4 2021". — AFP

December 10, 2020

Indonesia is betting that China-made coronavirus vaccines can help it tackle one of the worst outbreaks in Asia, but analysts warn it is a wager that could leave them holding a high-interest diplomatic IOU.

Beijing has promised poorer nations priority access to its inoculations, in an attempt to repair an image tarnished by the pandemic, which started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

This week, Indonesia received 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by China's Sinovac, with another 1.8 million set to arrive next month, but experts say this access could have strings attached. — AFP

December 9, 2020

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday officially registers the coronavirus vaccine produced by Chinese drug giant Sinopharm, saying it was 86% effective according to analysis of third-phase trials.

The health ministry "has announced the official registration" of the vaccine, state news agency WAM says, without elaborating on how it would now be used. 

The vaccine has been undergoing third-phase trials in the Emirates since July, and it was approved for emergency use for healthcare workers in September. —  AFP

December 8, 2020

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls the roll-out of a new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 a "tremendous shot in the arm for the entire nation".

But with most people not expected to get vaccinated until early 2021, he says the public still needed to be careful to stop the spread of the virus.

"We can't afford to relax," he says on a visit to a central London hospital. — AFP

December 8, 2020

Briton, 90, first person to receive Pfizer's approved COVID-19 vaccine, according to BBC.

December 8, 2020

Britain hails a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history with a new COVID-19 jab.

The first patients in line on what has been dubbed "V-Day" -- the over-80s, care home workers and at-risk frontline health and social care staff -- will roll up their sleeves for an initial dose from early morning.

They will then require a second jab in 21 days' time. — AFP

December 8, 2020

Officials say Indonesia has received 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by China's Sinovac as the world's fourth most populous nation struggles to get soaring case rates under control.

The doses arrived in Jakarta late Sunday on a flight from Beijing, with another 1.8 million expected to be sent again next month.

Although Chinese regulators have yet to clear any of country's vaccines for mass distribution, they have approved some advanced candidates for emergency use. — AFP 

December 8, 2020

Trucks and cargo planes are at the ready to distribute millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine across the United States, a complex task led by a four-star general that will ultimately proceed more slowly than initially expected.

US Army General Gus Perna, in charge of logistics for the government's Operation Warp Speed, has been putting his troops -- a mix of soldiers and health experts -- through dry runs for weeks, in anticipation of the day when a vaccine is approved.

The US Food and Drug Administration is due to grant emergency use approval to the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, likely soon after December 10 and 17, respectively. — AFP

December 7, 2020

Britain on Monday prepares to start its biggest ever immunisation campaign but health officials warned the drive to inoculate millions against COVID-19 would be a "marathon" stretching well into next year.

The world-first rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is due to start on Tuesday — dubbed "V-Day" by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has volunteered to take it live on television to assuage any public doubts over the rapid approval.

Croydon University Hospital in south London is one of 50 clinical hubs that started receiving the country's initial consignment of 800,000 doses over the weekend, from a Pfizer plant in Belgium. —  AFP

December 7, 2020

Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech has secured half a billion dollars in extra funding to produce its COVID-19 vaccine, it says Monday, as the country races to roll out a jab for general use.

Beijing has largely brought the virus under control, with only 281 active cases still receiving treatment, according to official figures. 

But it has promised to make its vaccines available as a "global public good" as it seeks to counter global criticism for its early handling of the pandemic. —  AFP

December 4, 2020

The World Health Organization said it was considering introducing electronic vaccination certificates, as hopes for an end to the pandemic were boosted after Britain became the first country to approve use of a Covid-19 vaccine.

"We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this Covid-19 response and one of them is how can we work with members states towards something called an e-vaccination certificate," WHO Europe expert Siddhartha Datta told an online press briefing Thursday.

Introducing such a certificate, which would make it possible to identify and monitor people who have been vaccinated, has not been finalised and would have to be drawn up in accordance with national laws, Datta said.

It would not be an immunity passport, which is supposed to assure that its carrier is protected against the disease because they have been infected and recovered. — AFP

December 4, 2020

Moderna plans to have 100 to 125 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine available in the first quarter of 2021, the vast majority of which will go to the United States, the biotechnology company announces.

Between 85 and 100 million of the doses will be distributed in the United States, with the rest of the world receiving the remaining 15 to 25 million, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company says in a statement.

Moderna also confirms that it expects to have 20 million vaccine doses available in the US by the end of 2020. — AFP

December 2, 2020

Britain's approval of BioNTech-Pfizer's vaccine against COVID-19 marks a "historic moment" in the battle against the pandemic, the US pharma group's chief executive says Wednesday, after his company won the first such authorisation in the West.

"Today's Emergency Use Authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19," says Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

The US company and Germany's BioNTech adds that they expected further regulatory decisions from other countries "in the coming days and weeks". —  AFP

December 2, 2020

UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for rollout from "next week".

Britain on Wednesday becomes the first country to approve Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for general use and says it would be introduced next week.

"The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for use," the department of health says in a statement.

"The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week," the statement says, with priority groups including care home residents, health and care staff. —  AFP

December 2, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte grants authority to the Food and Drug Administration to issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea says.

Duterte's Executive Order 121 also allows FDA to release emergency use authorization for COVID-19 drugs, prescribing conditions and for other purposes.

December 2, 2020

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines could be approved in a matter of weeks, but who in the United States will get them first? 

A high level panel of US experts on Tuesday voted that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities should be prioritized in the first phase.

"I believe that my vote reflects maximum benefits, minimum harm, promoting justice and mitigating the health inequalities that exist, with regard to distribution of this vaccine," said Jose Romero, chair of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the sequence continues though, US experts may differ from other countries in prioritizing "critical workers" who keep society running — potentially even before people at highest risk. — AFP

December 1, 2020

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Tuesday says it would hold an extraordinary meeting on December 29 "at the latest" to consider emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Germany's BioNTech and US giant Pfizer.

"If the data submitted are robust enough to conclude on the quality, safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, EMA... will conclude its assessment during an extraordinary meeting scheduled for 29 December at the latest," the EU regulator says in a statement. 

Pfizer and BioNTech earlier announced they had formally applied for conditional EU approval for their jab, following a similar request in the United States. — AFP

December 1, 2020

Germany's BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer say they had applied for EU regulatory approval for their COVID-19 vaccine, raising hopes that the first jabs could be administered in December.

The two companies say in a statement that they had submitted an application to the European Medicines Agency on Monday "for Conditional Marketing Authorisation (CMA)" for their vaccine, after tests showed it was 95 percent effective against the novel coronavirus.

If approved, the jab could potentially be rolled out "in Europe before the end of 2020", the statement says. — AFP

December 1, 2020

US President Donald Trump's controversial coronavirus adviser resigned Monday, while hopes for a first wave of vaccinations before the end of 2020 received a further boost with an announcement from US firm Moderna.

Scott Atlas, a favored coronavirus adviser of the US president, who tweeted in October "Masks work? NO," has submitted his resignation, effective as of December 1, Fox News reported.

Lacking relevant experience or qualifications in public health or infectious disease, he also called in November for people in Michigan to "rise up" against COVID-19 measures. — AFP

November 28, 2020

A think tank questions the rush to sign a vaccine supply deal with British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca as experts doubt its reported success rate.

“With the new global trials involving the low-dose regimen, it is premature for government to make a supply commitment to AstraZeneca, unless and until there is a showing that the new trials will yield the same ninety-percent efficacy rating in its limited trial run,” says Terry Ridon, Infrawatch PH convenor.

November 28, 2020

As a string of Covid-19 vaccines near approval, Frankfurt Airport staff are gearing up to handle the unprecedented logistical challenge of transporting millions of life-saving doses worldwide.

Frankfurt is Europe's largest hub for transporting pharmaceutical goods, and will be key to the success of inoculating millions of people against the deadly coronavirus. — AFP

November 27, 2020

One of the developers of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine announces that India-based drugmaker Hetero will produce over 100 million doses of the jab.

"Hetero, one of India's leading generic pharmaceutical companies, have agreed to produce in India over 100 million doses per year of the world's first registered vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection -– Sputnik V," the Russian Direct Investment Fund says in a statement, adding that production was expected to start in early 2021.

Earlier this week, Russia said interim results from the Sputnik V clinical trails showed the vaccine was 95% effective, similar to other international vaccine makers that have also published test results showing efficacy rates of 90% and higher. — AFP

November 27, 2020

The World Health Organization urges African countries to improve their capacity to vaccinate populations against COVID-19, warning the continent was still "far from ready" for mass immunisation.

With three coronavirus vaccines now showing efficacy rates of 70% or more, the UN body called on Africa to "ramp up" preparations for "the continent's largest ever immunisation drive".

The African region is so far only 33 percent ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization says in a statement. — AFP

November 27, 2020

The British government says it has asked its independent medicines regulator to assess AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine as part of the formal approval process for the drug to be rolled out by the end of the year.

More than 1.4 million people have died since the novel coronavirus emerged in China late last year, and three drug developers -- Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford University -- are currently applying for approval for their vaccines to be used as early as December. 

AstraZeneca has completed Phase III clinical trials of its vaccine, the last stage before regulatory approval. — AFP

November 26, 2020

Cash-strapped Latin American governments face severe geographical, economic and social challenges in trying to ensure life-saving COVID-19 vaccines are made available to vulnerable populations, experts say. 

Megacities like Sao Paulo, mountain ranges like the Andes as well as the vast Amazon basin pose just a few of the geographical problems for distributors, given the vital need to maintain the cold chain to preserve the vaccines.

Transporting vaccines "to the most distant parts of the big cities and to peripheral neighborhoods, with the need to conserve the cold chain, will be the first major challenge," Colombian epidemiologist Carlos Trillos told AFP.

Governments also face a race against time to provide training to those handling the doses throughout the cold chain, he said. — AFP

November 25, 2020

The United States plans to distribute 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the first week after it is cleared for emergency use, which is likely next month, officials say Tuesday.

A committee of the Food and Drug Administration meets on December 10 to decide whether to green light the medicine, with the US confronted by soaring numbers of deaths and new cases.

Latest figures on Tuesday showed that the country had recorded a total of 259,600 COVID deaths and 12.5 million cases — with over 2,000 deaths and 167,000 new cases in just the last 24 hours.

General Gustave Perna, chief operations officer for the government's Operation Warp Speed, told reporters some 40 million doses of vaccine would be available by the end of December.

That figure includes another vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes for Health, which announced some preliminary efficacy results last week and is also close to applying for emergency approval. — AFP

November 25, 2020

The United States plans to distribute 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the first week after it is cleared for emergency use, which is likely next month, officials say.

A committee of the Food and Drug Administration meets on December 10 to decide whether to green light the medicine, with the US confronted by soaring numbers of deaths and new cases. — AFP 

November 24, 2020

Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective according to a second interim analysis of clinical trial data, its developers said on Tuesday.

The calculations were based on preliminary data obtained 42 days after the first dose, Russia's health ministry, the state-run Gamaleya research centre and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement. 

They did not note the number of cases used to make the calculation, however. — AFP

November 23, 2020

European stock markets opened firmer Monday, buoyed as positive news on another coronavirus vaccine trial helped offset concerns over soaring case numbers, dealers said.

In London, the FTSE 100 index of leading shares was up 0.5 percent at 6,382.36 points.

In the Eurozone, the Paris CAC 40 gained nearly one percent to 5,543.83 points and the Frankfurt DAX put on 0.6 percent to 13,219.25 points.

Shortly before the markets opened, British drugs group AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said their jointly-developed vaccine against COVID-19 has shown "an average efficacy of 70 percent" in trials, and up to 90 percent in one dosage combination. — AFP

November 23, 2020

The United States hopes to begin coronavirus vaccinations in early December, a top government health official said Sunday, the latest positive news to emerge even as cases surge across the worst-hit nation and elsewhere around the globe.

The beginning of vaccinations could be a crucial shift in the battle against a virus that has claimed more than 1.4 million lives worldwide, including 255,000 just in the US, since emerging from China late last year.

Encouraging results from vaccine trials have bolstered hopes for an end to the pandemic, as nations reimpose restrictions and lockdowns that slowed the spread earlier this year but turned lives and economies upside down across the globe. — AFP

November 19, 2020

A leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate has shown to safely produce a robust immune response in healthy older adults, its British makers said Thursday as it released its phase 2 trial results.

The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, produced fewer side effects in people aged 56 and over than in younger people — a significant finding given that COVID-19 disproportionately causes severe illness among seniors. 

The manufacturers said the vaccine was undergoing larger, more comprehensive phase 3 trials to confirm the results. — AFP

November 18, 2020

The biotech company Pfizer says Wednesday that a completed study of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine showed it is 95% effective.

Pfizer says the vaccine had no serious side effects and that the company will apply for emergency use authorization from US regulators within a matter of days.

"The study results mark an important step in this historic eight-month journey to bring forward a vaccine capable of helping to end this devastating pandemic," says Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. — AFP

November 18, 2020

Pfizer is "very close" to applying for an emergency use approval for its COVID-19 vaccine after collecting safety data to submit to US regulators, the company's CEO said Tuesday, according to a report. 

The pharmaceutical giant announced last week preliminary results from a late-stage clinical trial showing the injections it had co-developed with Germany's BioNTech was more than 90 percent effective after the second dose.

"We are very close to submitting for an emergency use authorization," Albert Bourla says. "We will announce it as soon as we are doing it." 


November 17, 2020

The United States' top infectious disease scientist on Monday hailed early results from Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine as "stunningly impressive."

"The idea that we have a 94.5 percent" effective vaccine is stunningly impressive," he told AFP.

"It is really a spectacular result that I don't think anybody had anticipated it would be this good." — AFP

November 17, 2020

Global hopes of vanquishing the coronavirus pandemic were boosted Monday after a second vaccine was found to be nearly 95 percent effective in a trial, bringing much-needed optimism amid surging infections and grueling new restrictions.

The news from the US biotech firm Moderna comes after similar results were announced last week for a vaccine candidate developed by pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Major stock markets surged Monday in response, building on a boom sparked by the Pfizer news one week ago.

Moderna, whose results stem from a clinical trial of more than 30,000 participants, expects to have approximately 20 million doses ready to ship in the United States by year-end. — AFP

November 16, 2020

Moderna on Monday announces its experimental vaccine against COVID-19 was shown to be 94.5 percent effective according to early results from a clinical trial with more than 30,000 participants.

"This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease," says Stephane Bancel, Moderna's CEO. — AFP

November 16, 2020

A sudden coronavirus cluster emerged in the Australian city of Adelaide on Monday after seven months without a significant outbreak there, with the virus again escaping from the country's hotel quarantine system.

South Australia state reported four cases had been detected in the city on Sunday, before the cluster grew sharply overnight to 17 people Monday — the largest there since April.

All but two of the 17 were members of the same large family, including one who was working in a hotel used to quarantine travellers returning from overseas. — AFP

November 16, 2020

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday that his government has agreed to buy 10 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.

The vaccines will come in the first quarter of 2021, Maduro said at an event in Caracas broadcast on government television, adding that "Venezuela will manufacture the Russian vaccine in the Venezuelan laboratories."

In August, Russia became the first country to register a vaccine against COVID-19, which it named Sputnik V after the world's first satellite launched into space in 1957.

However, the announcement has been met with skepticism in the international community. — AFP

November 10, 2020

Brazil's health regulator says it had suspended clinical trials of a Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine after an "adverse incident" involving a volunteer recipient, a blow for one of the most advanced vaccine candidates.

The setback for CoronaVac, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, came on the same day US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said its own vaccine candidate had shown 90 percent effectiveness, sending global markets soaring and raising hopes of an end to the pandemic.

The Brazilian regulator, Anvisa, said in a statement it had "ruled to interrupt the clinical study of the CoronaVac vaccine after a serious adverse incident" on October 29. — AFP

November 10, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted emergency approval to a synthetic antibody treatment against Covid-19 developed by Eli Lilly, after the drug was shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and emergency room visits.

Bamlanivimab at a dose of 700 milligrams was authorized for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Covid-19 in adults and children aged 12 years and older who are at high risk for progressing to the severe form of the disease.

It is the first major drug to be approved that was designed specifically against the new coronavirus.

"As illustrated by today's action, the FDA remains committed to expediting the development and availability of potential COVID-19 treatments," said the agency's chief Stephen Hahn. — AFP

November 10, 2020

Brazil's health regulator says Monday it has suspended clinical trials of a Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine after an "adverse incident" involving a volunteer recipient, a blow for one of the most advanced vaccine candidates.

The regulator, Anvisa, says in a statement that it has "ruled to interrupt the clinical trial of the CoronaVac vaccine after a serious adverse incident" on October 29.

It says it could not give details on what happened because of privacy regulations, but that such incidents included death, potentially fatal side effects, serious disability, hospitalization, birth defects and other "clinically significant events." — AFP

November 9, 2020

US President-elect Joe Biden Monday hails as a cause for "hope" the news that a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 percent effective — but warned of a long battle still ahead.

"I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope," Biden says in a statement, adding that he received advance notice of the announcement on Sunday night.

"At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away," he adds — stressing the continued importance of mask-wearing for the foreseeable future. — AFP

November 9, 2020

US President Donald Trump hails the "great news" Monday that a vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections.

"STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!" the president tweets minutes after Pfizer announced the development and days after he lost the US presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

His defeat was blamed, in part, on his administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, with infections surging across the US in recent days. — AFP

November 3, 2020

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum says he had received an experimental coronavirus vaccine, becoming the latest United Arab Emirates official to take part in the trials.

Two vaccines are undergoing third-phase trials in the UAE, one produced by Chinese drug giant Sinopharm, and Russia's Sputnik-V, named after the Soviet-era satellite.

"While receiving the COVID-19 vaccine today," Sheikh Mohammed captioned a photograph of himself he posted on Twitter with his sleeve rolled up, as a healthcare worker in full protective equipment administered the injection. — AFP

October 27, 2020

Brazil is a top testing ground for vaccines against COVID-19, but its plans for vaccinating its own population have been plunged into chaos by a political war waged by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Hit hard by the new coronavirus, Brazil has been tapped to help test several of the leading vaccine candidates, giving it a potential edge in the race to secure access to an eventual shot.

That could be a welcome silver lining for the country of 212 million people, which has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, at more than 157,000.

But one promising test vaccine, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, has triggered the ire of the far-right president, who last week canceled his health minister's plan to buy 46 million doses. 

The vaccine's most visible proponent in Brazil is the governor of the large and wealthy state of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, who also happens to be one of Bolsonaro's top opponents. — AFP

October 21, 2020

Brazil's health minister says the country would add the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine against COVID-19 to its national immunization program, despite a political and diplomatic row over whether to use it.

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello says the federal government had reached a deal with Sao Paulo state, which is helping test and produce the vaccine, to buy 46 million doses to be administered starting in January.

"This vaccine will be Brazil's vaccine," in addition to another developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, Pazuello says in a video meeting of the South American country's 27 governors. — AFP

October 7, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration made public its guidance for issuing emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, making it clear it wants to see follow-up two months after trial volunteers have their second dose.

It is therefore unlikely for President Donald Trump's administration to have a vaccine on the market before the November 3 election, something the president frequently says is on the cards.

"Data from Phase 3 studies should include a median follow-up duration of at least two months after completion of the full vaccination regimen to help provide adequate information to assess a vaccine's benefit-risk profile," the document said. — AFP

October 7, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration made public its guidance for issuing emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, making it clear it wants to see follow-up two months after trial volunteers have their second dose.

It is therefore unlikely for US President Donald Trump's administration to have a vaccine on the market before the November 3 election, something the president frequently says is on the cards.

"Data from Phase 3 studies should include a median follow-up duration of at least two months after completion of the full vaccination regimen to help provide adequate information to assess a vaccine's benefit-risk profile," the document said.

The two companies that are furthest along in their vaccine trials, Moderna and Pfizer, both began their final stages at the end of July, and both require two separate injections 28 days apart. — AFP

September 30, 2020

The World Bank says it has asked its board of directors to approve $12 billion to help poor countries purchase and distribute eventual vaccines against COVID-19.

The bank has already implemented emergency response programs in 111 countries and the extra money, if approved, would be aimed at low- and middle-income countries.

"An effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine is the most promising path forward for the world to reopen safely," a World Bank spokesman says. — AFP

September 26, 2020

Latin American leaders have appealed at the United Nations for free access to a future COVID-19 vaccine, urging major powers to share their know-how for the sake of global well-being.

Latin America has taken a heavy blow from Covid-19 with nearly nine million cases and more than 330,000 deaths, one third of the global total, according to an AFP tally based on official data.

"With the pandemic, as with poverty, nobody will be saved on their own," Argentine President Alberto Fernandez tells the UN General Assembly, which is taking place virtually due to the health crisis. — AFP

September 25, 2020

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña says the Philippines had signed six confidentiality agreements with foreign pharmaceutical companies for COVID-19 vaccine.

These are:

Russia's Sputnik V (clinical trial and local manufacturing)
China's Sinovac (clinical trial and local manufacturing)
China's Sinopharm (procurement)
China's ZFSW (clinical trial)
Australia's University of Queensland (clinical trial)
Taiwan's Adimmune (clinical trial)

September 22, 2020

More than 60 wealthy nations have joined a WHO-backed programme to facilitate poor countries' access to coronavirus vaccines, but the US and China are not on the list published Monday.

The World Health Organization has in coordination with the global vaccine alliance group Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) created a mechanism aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of any future COVID-19 vaccines.

But the mechanism, known as Covax, has struggled to raise the funds needed to provide for the 92 low-income countries and other economies that quickly signed up. 


September 16, 2020

President Donald Trump says that a coronavirus vaccine may be available within a month -- an acceleration of even his own surprisingly optimistic predictions -- but added that the pandemic could go away by itself.

"We're very close to having a vaccine," he tells a town hall question-and-answer session with voters in Pennsylvania aired on ABC News.

"We're within weeks of getting it you know -- could be three weeks, four weeks," he says. — AFP

September 15, 2020

A China-developed coronavirus vaccine could be ready for the public as early as November, a Chinese official has told state television, as the global race to clear the final round of trials heats up.

Chinese manufacturers have been bullish about development, with companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm even putting their vaccine candidates on display at a trade fair in Beijing this month.

Representatives of the firms told AFP that they hope their vaccines will be approved after phase 3 trials as early as year-end.

And on late Monday, the chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control told state broadcaster CCTV that a vaccine would be available to the general public "around November or December."

Wu Guizhen did not specify which vaccine she was referring to, but said "based on the phase 3 clinical results, the current progress is very smooth." — AFP

September 10, 2020

Drugs giant AstraZeneca says a COVID-19 vaccine could still be available by as early as the end of this year, despite a randomized clinical trial in the UK being paused.

"We could still have a vaccine by the end of this year, early next year," the company's chief executive Pascal Soriot says, adding it depended on how fast regulators moved. — AFP

September 9, 2020

EU reserves 200 million more coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer.

September 9, 2020

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca says it has "voluntarily paused" a randomized clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine in what it called a routine action after a volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

"As part of the ongoing randomized, controlled global trials of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, our standard review process was triggered and we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee," a spokesperson says in a statement. — AFP

September 8, 2020

Saudi King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Monday the possible joint production of a Russian coronavirus vaccine, the Kremlin said.

In early August, Russia said it had developed the world's first vaccine against the virus and claimed that more than a billion doses had been pre-ordered by 20 countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Russia's sovereign wealth fund has provided much of the financing, and it has identified Saudi Arabia as one of the countries interested in the vaccine.

On Monday, Putin and Salman discussed "collective efforts aimed at overcoming the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic," a Kremlin statement said, while noting the call had come at the Saudi king's initiative. — AFP

September 8, 2020

China has put its homegrown coronavirus vaccines on display for the first time, as the country where the contagion was discovered looks to shape the narrative surrounding the pandemic.

High hopes hang on the small vials of liquid on show at a Beijing trade fair this week -- vaccine candidates produced by Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm.

Neither has hit the market yet but the makers hope they will be approved after all-important phase 3 trials as early as year-end. — AFP/Beiyi Seow

September 3, 2020

The Trump administration has urged US states to get ready to distribute a potential Covid-19 vaccine by November 1, media reported Wednesday, in the latest sign of the accelerating race to deliver a vaccine by year's end.

"CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities," read a letter from Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

The CDC, "if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by Nov. 1, 2020," two days before the US presidential election, the letter said. — AFP

September 1, 2020

Hong Kong launches a mass coronavirus testing scheme, but calls for millions to take up the offer have been undermined by deep distrust of the government following China's crushing of the city's democracy movement.

The free voluntary tests are part of an attempt to stamp out a third wave of infections that began in late June and saw the densely populated city reimpose economically painful social distancing measures.

But the programme has been hampered by a limited response due to the involvement of mainland Chinese testing firms and doctors -- and swirling public fears of the harvesting of data and DNA as Beijing cracks down on calls for democratic reform. — AFP

September 1, 2020

Hong Kong launched a mass coronavirus testing scheme on Tuesday, but calls for millions to take up the offer have been undermined by deep distrust of the government following China's crushing of the city's democracy movement.

The free voluntary tests are part of an attempt to stamp out a third wave of infections that began in late June and saw the densely populated city reimpose economically painful social distancing measures.

But the program has been hampered by a limited response due to the involvement of mainland Chinese testing firms and doctors — and swirling public fears of the harvesting of data and DNA as Beijing cracks down on calls for democratic reform.

Since registration began on Saturday, 510,000 people have signed up — around seven percent of the city's 7.5 million population. — AFP

August 31, 2020

The head of the US Food and Drug Administration raises the possibility that a future vaccine against the coronavirus might be given emergency approval before the end of trials designed to ensure its safety and effectiveness. — AFP

August 20, 2020

Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious diseases official, says the government wouldn't make any future COVID-19 vaccine obligatory for the general public -- though local jurisdictions could make it mandatory for some groups, like children.

"You don't want to mandate and try and force anyone to take a vaccine. We've never done that," says Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, during a video talk organized by George Washington University.

"You can mandate for certain groups of people like health workers, but for the general population you can't" he added, citing the example of the National Institutes of Health, where health workers can't treat patients without a flu shot. — AFP

August 18, 2020

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that he would be among the first to receive a Russian coronavirus vaccine if it is shown to be effective.

Russia's announcement last week that it was the first in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine was met with caution from Western scientists who said it still needed to be proved safe and effective.

"I would be the first to get vaccinated, because it matters a lot to me, but we have to ... ensure that it's something effective and that it's available to everyone," Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference. — AFP

August 14, 2020

Mexico and Argentina aim to have a coronavirus vaccine available for Latin America early next year under a production agreement with drugs giant AstraZeneca, the Mexican government said Thursday.

The vaccine, being developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford, is one of the most promising of dozens that researchers around the world are racing to prove safe and efficient.

The goal is to "start manufacturing to have the vaccine in the first quarter of next year," Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a news conference. — AFP

August 13, 2020

The Brazilian state of Parana signed a deal Wednesday to test and produce Russia's new coronavirus vaccine, though officials stressed they would have to be sure of its safety and effectiveness first.

The vaccine would have to receive Brazilian regulatory approval and complete Phase 3 clinical trials, or large-scale testing in humans, before being produced in Brazil, said officials from the southern state.

Production, if it goes ahead, would likely only start in the second half of 2021, said Jorge Callado, head of the state-run Parana Technology Institute, which signed the deal with the Russian Direct Investment Fund. — AFP

August 13, 2020

Palace spokesperson Harry Roque says the earliest time that President Rodrigo Duterte can get vaccinated with the Russian vaccine is on May 1, 2021. — The STAR/Alexis Romero

August 12, 2020

Following Russia's announcement that it has supposedly developed a COVID-19 vaccine, the United States says it is not "a race to be first."

Noting that the Russian vaccine is now only beginning, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says two of the six vaccines that the American government invested in entered the third phase of clinical trials weeks ago.

"The data from the initial trials in Russia have not been disclosed, it’s not transparent," Azar tells reporters in a teleconference. 

August 12, 2020

US President Donald Trump announces a $1.5 billion contract with US biotech company Moderna for 100 million doses of an eventual coronavirus vaccine, the sixth such deal reached since May.

"I'm pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Moderna to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate," Trump says at a White House news conference. "The federal government will own these vaccine doses, we're buying them."

"We're on track to rapidly produce 100 million doses as soon as the vaccine is approved, and up to 500 million shortly thereafter, so we'll have 600 million doses," he adds. — AFP

August 11, 2020

The World Health Organization says any WHO stamp of approval on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate would require a rigorous safety data review, after Russia announced Tuesday it had approved a vaccine.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia had become the first country to approve a vaccine offering "sustainable immunity" against the new coronavirus.

"We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO pre-qualification of the vaccine," the United Nations health agency's spokesman Tarik Jasarevic tells reporters in Geneva at an online press briefing. — AFP

August 7, 2020

President Donald Trump says that a vaccine may be produced ahead of the US presidential election on November 3 — a more optimistic timeline than given by his top infectious diseases doctor.

Asked by radio talk show host Geraldo Rivera whether a vaccine could come by the election, Trump says: "I think in some cases, yes, possible before. But right around that time."

Trump says the vaccine would be ready "sooner than the end of the year. Could be much sooner."

"We have a lot of vaccines under study by the way. We look like we're going to be really good on vaccines and therapeutics also," he says.— AFP

July 31, 2020

The Armed Forces of the Philippines welcomes the plan of President Rodrigo Duterte for the military to manage the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine once it is abailable.

Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the AFP, says the AFP chief has directed his staff to plan the task.

"Bagaman at kababanggit pa lang ng Pangulo ang tungkol sa bagay na yan, kaagad pong inatasan ng ating AFP Chief of Staff General Felimon Santos Jr. ang kanyang mga staff upang pagpaplanuhan at paghandaan yan before December kung kailan pinaniniwalaan na magkakaroon na ng vaccine para sa COVID-19," Arevalo says.

July 31, 2020

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III says the Philippines will allocate around P20 billion to purchase COVID-19 expected to be available by "December."

Four vaccines from China, the United Kingdom and the United States are being looked at. The Department of Health will evaluate which is best to use.

"Vaccines will be for free to 'poorest of the poor'," Domingue said, adding that the Philippines targets to vaccinate 20 million people once COVID-19 vaccine is available. That's nearly a fifth of the 108 million people. — Magtulis

July 30, 2020

Johnson & Johnson's announces that its lead vaccine candidate elicited a robust immune response as demonstrated by "neutralizing antibodies" in pre-clinical studies.

The data, published in journal Nature, showed that the company’s adenovirus serotype 26 nickname Ad26 vaccine successfully prevented subsequent infection and completely protected the lungs from the SARS-CoV2 virus in non-human primates in a single dose during the pre-clinical study.

The pre-clinical tests were conducted by researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in collaboration with the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and others as part of its ongoing collaboration to accelerate the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Pharma giants Sanofi and GSK said on July 29, 2020, that they have agreed to supply Britain with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement covers a vaccine candidate developed by France's Sanofi in partnership with the UK's GSK and is subject to a "final contract."

This thread collects some of the major developments in the search for a vaccine to ease the new coronavirus pandemic. (Main photo by AFP/Joel Saget)

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