Briefs: When will poor countries get vaccine?
The Associated Press
NEW DELHI — With Americans, Britons and Canadians rolling up their sleeves to receive coronavirus vaccines, the route out of the pandemic now seems clear to many in the West, even if the rollout will take many months. But for poorer countries, the road will be far longer and rougher.
The ambitious initiative known as COVAX created to ensure the entire world has access to COVID-19 vaccines has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has yet to confirm any actual deals to ship out vaccines and is short on cash.
The virus that has killed more than 1.6 million people has exposed vast inequities between countries, as fragile health systems and smaller economies were often hit harder. COVAX was set up by the World Health Organization, vaccines alliance GAVI and CEPI, a global coalition to fight epidemics, to avoid the international stampede for vaccines that has accompanied past outbreaks and would reinforce those imbalances.
But now some experts say the chances that coronavirus shots will be shared fairly between rich nations and the rest are fading fast. With vaccine supplies currently limited, developed countries, some of which helped fund the research with taxpayer money, are under tremendous pressure to protect their own populations and are buying up shots. Meanwhile, some poorer countries that signed up to the initiative are looking for alternatives because of fears it won't deliver.
"It's simple math," said Arnaud Bernaert, head of global health at the World Economic Forum. Of the approximately 12 billion doses the pharmaceutical industry is expected to produce next year, about 9 billion shots have already been reserved by rich countries. "COVAX has not secured enough doses, and the way the situation may unfold is they will probably only get these doses fairly late."
US vaccinations ramp up as feds weigh 2nd COVID-19 shot
WASHINGTON — Hundreds more U.S. hospitals will begin vaccinating their workers Tuesday as federal health officials review a second COVID-19 shot needed to boost the nation's largest vaccination campaign.
Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, shipments of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are set to arrive at 400 additional hospitals and other distribution sites, one day after the nation's death toll surpassed a staggering 300,000. The first 3 million shots are being strictly rationed to front-line health workers and elder-care patients, with hundreds of millions more shots needed over the coming months to protect most Americans.
The Food and Drug Administration is set to publish its analysis of a second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, which could soon join Pfizer-BioNTech's in the fight against the pandemic. If FDA advisers give it a positive recommendation on Thursday, the agency could greenlight the vaccine from drugmaker Moderna later this week.
A second vaccine can't come soon enough as the country's daily death count continues to top 2,400 amid over 210,000 new daily cases, based on weekly averages of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The devastating toll is only expected to grow in coming weeks, fueled by holiday travel, family gatherings and lax adherence to basic public health measures.
The first vaccine deliveries have provided a measure of encouragement to exhausted doctors, nurses and hospital staffers around the country.
Vaccine comes too late for the 300,000 US dead
When Brittany Palomo was hired as a nurse in March, her parents tried to talk her out of it, fearful of the fast-spreading coronavirus. All the more reason, she told them, to start the career that had been her long-held dream.
The pandemic, though, is a nightmare -- one that has now claimed 300,000 lives in the U.S. and counting.
"Wake up, my little girl, wake up!" Palomo's mother, Maria Palomo Salinas, screamed, her grief echoing through a Harlingen, Texas, hospital, when her daughter died of COVID-19 complications around 2 a.m. on a Saturday in late November.
Palomo was 27 and, as a health care worker, was probably weeks away from getting the new vaccine that could have protected her from the virus. Instead, she became yet another victim of the relentless outbreak whose U.S. toll is accelerating as it eclipses another round-number mark.
After Arab Spring, a decade of upheaval and lost hopes
CAIRO — Was it real?
It's all been erased so completely, so much blood has been shed and destruction wreaked over the past decade. The idea that there was a moment when millions across the Middle East wanted freedom and change so much that they took to the streets seems like romantic nostalgia.
"It was very brief, man. It was so brief," said Badr Elbendary, an Egyptian activist.
Elbendary was blinded on the third day of his country's revolt in 2011, when security forces shot him in the face. It happened during a clash that became iconic among Egypt's "revolutionaries," when protesters and police battled on a bridge over the Nile in Cairo for hours, ending with the police scattering.
Today, he's in the United States. He can't return home. Many of his comrades from the protests languish in prisons in Egypt.
Pandemic backlash jeopardizes public health powers, leaders
Tisha Coleman has lived in close-knit Linn County, Kansas, for 42 years and never felt so alone.
As the public health administrator, she's struggled every day of the coronavirus pandemic to keep her rural county along the Missouri border safe. In this community with no hospital, she's failed to persuade her neighbors to wear masks and take precautions against COVID-19, even as cases rise. In return, she's been harassed, sued, vilified and called a Democrat, an insult in her circles.
Even her husband hasn't listened to her, refusing to require customers to wear masks at the family's hardware store in Mound City.
"People have shown their true colors," Coleman said. "I'm sure that I've lost some friends over this situation."
By November, the months of fighting over masks and quarantines were already wearing her down. Then she got COVID-19, likely from her husband, who she thinks picked it up at the hardware store.
'Democracy prevailed': Biden aims to unify divided nation
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden pointedly criticized President Donald Trump for threatening core principles of democracy even as he told Americans that their form of self-government ultimately "prevailed."
Speaking on Monday from his longtime home of Wilmington, Delaware, on the day that electors nationwide cast votes affirming his victory, Biden was blunt in critiquing the damage done by Trump's baseless allegations that the contest was stolen. Such arguments have been roundly rejected by judges across the political spectrum, including the justices at the Supreme Court.
Democracy, Biden said, has been "pushed, tested, threatened." But he said it proved to be "resilient, true, and strong."
"The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago," Biden said. "And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame."
Biden and his team hope that the formal victory in the Electoral College combined with his record-setting 81 million-vote count will help the country unify and accept his presidency. But the challenge facing Biden was evident as many congressional Republicans, including some of the party's top leaders, refused to officially accept Biden's win. Trump, meanwhile, shows no sign of conceding.
The president-elect acknowledged an irony in the circumstances, noting that he won with the same number of electoral votes — 306 — as Trump did four years ago. Trump hailed that win as a "landslide."
"By his own standards, these numbers represent a clear victory then, and I respectfully suggest they do so now," Biden said.
A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes to clinch the presidency.
The fact that Biden had to even give such a speech shortly after electors voted to make him the president — a usually routine and even mundane step — shows how extraordinary the post-election period has been, with Trump trying to thwart Biden at every turn.
Despite that, Biden struck a familiar theme of his presidential campaign, pledging to be "a president for all Americans" who will "work just as hard for those of you who didn't vote for me as I will for those who did."
"Now it is time to turn the page as we've done throughout our history," he said. "To unite. To heal."
Germany demands EU agency approve vaccine before Christmas
BERLIN — Germany on Tuesday increased the pressure on the European Union's regulatory agency, with its health minister, a leading hospital association and lawmakers all demanding that the agency approve a coronavirus vaccine before Christmas.
"Our goal is an approval before Christmas so that we can still start vaccinating this year," Health Minister Jens Spahn said, the dpa news agency reported Tuesday.
Spahn had expressed impatience with the European Medicines Agency on Sunday, noting that Germany has created some 440 vaccination centers, activated about 10,000 doctors and medical staff and was ready to start mass vaccinations as early as Tuesday.
Spahn is pushing for a quick approval of a new vaccine developed by Germany's BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer that has already been authorized for use in Britain, the United States, Canada and other countries. But Germany cannot use it because it is still waiting for approval by the EMA, which evaluates drugs and vaccines for the EU's 27 nations.
Seeing the same vaccine being given to thousands of people in Britain, Canada and the United States was galling for many Germans.