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France and Russia prepared to step up their coronavirus vaccination programs starting next week, even as authorities tried on Sunday to address concerns about the delivery of the vaccines while the global pandemic shows no signs of being brought under control .

With more than 94 million infections and more than two million deaths – and Europe among the hardest hit regions – France and Russia hoped to get their vaccination programs up a gear from Monday.

At that point, France, whose death toll rose to over 70,000 over the weekend, will start vaccinating people over 75 and Russia will start mass vaccination.

The vaccination campaigns are taking place because of concerns that delays in delivery of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine could hinder its introduction in Europe, which critics have already condemned as being too slow.

US drug maker Pfizer, which developed the jab in collaboration with Germany’s BioNTech, said it was working to “significantly” increase production at its Belgian facility in the second quarter.

After a brief delay, deliveries should return to their original schedule for the EU from January 25th.

“There is a bathroom,” France’s European Minister Clement Beaune told Franceinfo Radio.

“But it’s better that it happen now, when we have supplies, than when the broader vaccination campaign begins.”

Tighter curbs

Until vaccination becomes widespread, countries around the world will still have to rely on bans, curfews and social distancing to control the spread of the virus.

Switzerland and Italy are tightening their restrictions from Monday and the UK is demanding all newcomers to be quarantined and show negative tests.

Newspaper reports suggested the UK might try to mimic countries like Australia and New Zealand by requiring travelers to isolate themselves in hotels at their own expense.

Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said such a system could be difficult to manage, but “we have to look very carefully on the basis of the experience of other countries”.

Austria, currently in its third national lockdown, said the current curbs will be extended for another two weeks until February 8.

According to the official Oman news agency, Oman will close its land borders for a week, possibly two, starting Monday due to concerns about new variants of the coronavirus. Air travel remains open.

Good start in India

India’s vaccination campaign got off to a successful start: more than 224,000 people received their first shocks and only three people were hospitalized for side effects, the Ministry of Health said on Sunday as reports surfaced of concerns about a self-drawn vaccine.

The authorities have issued emergency clearances for two shocks – Covishield, a version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Indian-made Covaxin, which has ongoing Phase 3 studies.

The government plans to vaccinate around 300 million people out of 1.3 billion people by July.

In Israel, the prison service announced that it would vaccinate all inmates, including the Palestinians, after phone calls from proper groups, Palestinian officials and the Israeli attorney general.

Israel has given at least one vaccine dose to more than two million of its citizens, a pace widely known as the fastest per capita in the world.

However, the Jewish state was heavily criticized when the Minister of Public Security, Amir Ohana, said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to be vaccinated.

Spain began giving second doses of vaccine on Sunday to people who had received the first as early as late December, mostly nursing home residents and caregivers.

In Norway, where 13 frail elderly people died after an initial vaccine injection, after evaluating the cases last week, the Medical Medicines Agency suggested that the deaths could be related to side effects of the sting.

But the agency’s official, Steinar Madsen, told the public broadcaster NRK that there was no cause for concern.

“It’s pretty clear that these vaccines pose very little risk with the minimal exception of the most fragile patients,” he said.

Belgian cluster

In Belgium, 111 people in a nursing home – or two-thirds of all residents and employees – tested positive for the UK variant of the novel coronavirus, which is feared to be more contagious. Three of them died.

Belgium has recorded 20,396 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

In the world of sports, Australian Open boss Craig Tiley said the Grand Slam tournament will start next month, although problems for organizers increased as another 25 players were quarantined for two weeks.

A total of 72 players have now been locked in their hotel rooms in Melbourne for 14 days and not allowed to practice after being exposed to COVID-19 cases on flights to Australia.

The tournament was messed up on Saturday when three people tested positive for COVID-19 on two of the 17 charter flights that took players and their supporters to Melbourne and Adelaide.

A fourth person, a member of a broadcast team on one of the same flights, tested positive on Sunday.

The quarantine rules mean 47 players are banned from training, but organizers said the tournament should start February 8th.

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© 2021 AFP

Quote: The launch of vaccines in Europe is moving up a gear as supply concerns persist (2021 Jan 17). Retrieved January 17, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-01-europe-vaccine-rollout-shifts-gear.html

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