The European Union kicked off its coronavirus vaccination campaign at the end of last month, and the number of people receiving shots is increasing, though some countries are faring better than others.
Here’s where Italy, Germany and France stand:
- Italy has so far vaccinated 791,734 people, according to the government’s vaccine administration.
- Germany has given shots to 688,782 people, according to the national agency for disease control and vaccination, the Robert Koch Institute.
- France has administered vaccines to 189,834 people, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
- Spain has administered a total of 488,142 doses, according to the country’s Health Ministry. Progress was interrupted by heavy snowfall across much of northern and central Spain at the weekend.
Quicker, more stringent pandemic policies likely saved tens of thousands of lives in certain European countries, researchers reported Tuesday.
And they did not necessarily need to impose all-out lockdowns.
A review led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that when countries imposed mitigation measures earlier last spring, they had less spread of coronavirus and fewer deaths.
“Countries that implemented stringent policies earlier might have saved several thousand lives relative to those countries that implemented similar policies, but later. Earlier implementation of mitigation policies, even by just a few weeks, might be an important strategy to reduce the number of deaths from Covid-19,” the team of researchers wrote in the CDC’s weekly report, the MMWR.
Early measures included: canceling public events, school closures, restrictions on gathering and internal travel, workplace closures, border closures, public transport closures, recommendations to stay at home, and stay-at-home orders. Mask requirements were not included, according to the report.
The CDC team reviewed policies in 37 European countries and used them to create an index. Those with a higher index — indicating either more policies, or stricter implementation of policies — had fewer deaths per capita.
“Earlier implementation of stringent mitigation policies, even by just a few weeks, appears to be important to prevent widespread Covid-19 transmission and reduce the number of deaths,” the team wrote.
More lives could have been saved: Britain could have averted 22,776 deaths had mitigation measures been put into place earlier, the team calculated. France could have prevented more than 13,000 deaths, and Spain could have averted 9,300 fatalities.
The team said many policies were put in place at the same time so they could not say if any particular policies worked best.
President Joko Widodo officially launched Indonesia’s coronavirus vaccine drive Wednesday by becoming the first person in the country to receive the shot, state-run Antara News Agency reported.
Joko said the country would vaccinate nearly 5.8 million people in January, according to Antara.
Indonesia has received 3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac and has signed deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax to secure another 100 million doses.
The country’s food and drug regulators approved emergency use of China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine on Monday.
Case numbers: Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, has reported the highest Covid-19 caseload in Southeast Asia. At least 846,765 infections and 24,645 deaths have been confirmed in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.
So far, 22 people in South Korea have been indicted for violating the country’s social distancing rules since they were implemented last month, health official Son Young-rae said Wednesday.
Some 411 more people are being investigated for breaking the rules, Son added. Most of them are owners of entertainment venues, and church officials who violated social distancing rules by not closing venues and holding in-person church services, he said.
South Korea’s measures: The country raised its social distancing restrictions to level 2.5 — the second highest alert level — for the Seoul metropolitan area, and level 2 for the rest of the nation on December 8. Later that month, South Korea issued a ban on gatherings of five or more people.
An announcement on whether South Korea will adjust the current social distancing rules will be made on Saturday, Son said.
New cases: South Korea reported 562 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The national total of confirmed infections is now 70,212, with 1,185 deaths.
The United States on Tuesday reported a record-high number of 4,327 new Covid-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The latest figures bring the nationwide death toll to 380,670.
Cases: Also on Tuesday, the US reported 215,805 new Covid-19 cases, according to JHU, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 22,838,110.
The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.
Vaccines: At least 27,696,150 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 9,327,138 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Track the US cases:
Indian officials are ramping up their messaging that two Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use are safe, in order to encourage participation in the country’s vaccine rollout.
Speaking a news conference on Tuesday, Dr. V. K. Paul, Member (Health) of government think tank NITI Aayog, said vaccines Covishield and Covaxin “have been tested on thousands of people and the side-effects are negligible.”
Let’s give the message that these vaccines are safe and secure. We need to send the message. We need to take this message and defeat coronavirus,” Paul said.
Paul urged the media to raise awareness, saying, “We believe it is very much in our grasp to mount the world’s largest vaccination program, which is set to begin from January 16.”
Rajesh Bhushan, a senior official from the country’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, added that the vaccines were granted approval through a “well prescribed regulatory process.”
India’s Health Ministry has placed a purchase order for 11 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine — branded locally as Covishield — and 5.5 million doses of the vaccine Covaxin, developed locally by Bharat Biotech.
Vaccine drive: India is embarking on one of the world’s most ambitious mass immunization programs ever undertaken. The country of 1.35 billion is planning to inoculate 300 million frontline workers, elderly and vulnerable people by August, and preparations have been months in the making. In its first phase, the government intends to vaccinate 10 million healthcare workers free of charge.
New cases: On Wednesday, India confirmed 15,968 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the country’s total to 10,495,147, according to figures released by the Health Ministry. The number of fatalities rose by 202, bringing the death toll to 151,529.
Since the start of the pandemic, scientists have mused that the novel coronavirus might eventually go the way of other coronaviruses that affect people, and join the mix of viruses that cause the common cold.
A study published Tuesday takes a look at how that might happen – and how mass vaccination might affect that natural cycle.
“This transition may take anywhere from a few years to a few decades depending on how fast the pathogen spreads,” Jennie Lavine, a researcher at Emory University, and colleagues reported in the journal Science.
The current pandemic is likely as deadly as it is because it’s a new virus affecting people who have no immunity to it. It’s worse in older adults because their bodies aren’t used to fighting off new viruses in the same way children’s bodies are, the researchers said.
But it’s similar to four other coronaviruses that cause symptoms no worse than the common cold in most people. Once it has been circulating for a while, the current coronavirus may do the same, they said.
Studies of the body’s immune response indicate that immunity that can completely block infection “wanes rapidly,” they wrote. But people would have residual immunity that protects against severe disease. If the virus starts to circulate freely everywhere, it would become endemic, or permanently entrenched in the population.
“Once the endemic phase is reached and primary exposure is in childhood, CoV-2 may be no more virulent than the common cold,” Lavine and colleagues hypothesized.
Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense Tuesday.
The minister is quarantined and in “good health,” the statement said, adding that Trujillo will continue with his duties virtually.
As of Tuesday, Colombia has reported 1,816,082 cases of Covid-19 and 46,782 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Facing a surge in Covid-19 cases, Cuban officials Tuesday night said they are implementing new restrictions, including shutting schools in much of the capital Havana and other parts of the island.
Cuban health officials on Tuesday reported 487 new Covid-19 cases, topping the previous record set the day before.
Schools will be shut in 34 municipalities hard hit by the pandemic starting on Thursday, officials said.
Cuba has recorded more than 15,000 coronavirus cases, including 155 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
For much of the pandemic Cuba had managed the outbreak more effectively than many other countries in the region but since reopening borders in late 2019, the communist-run island has seen a sharp increase in infections.
Officials said Tuesday more restrictions would be put into place soon on transportation and commerce.