People waiting for their turn to be inoculated in Los Angeles. Photo: Agence France-Presse

Biden says all Americans would receive Covid-19 vaccine by August

US President Joe Biden said that all Americans will have access to Covid-19 vaccines before August.

He added that Moderna and Pfizer agreed to sell more doses of their coronavirus vaccines to the United States faster than planned after he invoked federal law that could force their production, according to Straitstimes.

Mr Biden has previously predicted that vaccines might be available to all by spring.

But the White House has recently toned down its optimism, citing difficulties both with availability and ability to deliver them.

Asked when all Americans would be inoculated, he told a CNN town-hall meeting with members of the public on Tuesday: "By the end of July this year."

"By the end of July we'll have 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every American," he noted.

Mr Biden said he wanted a faster return of children to schools and that he backs vaccinations for teachers. The authorities should "move them up in the hierarchy".

The government announced last week that Moderna and Pfizer would deliver 300 million doses of each of their vaccines to the US by the end of July, enough to inoculate all American adults.

"We got them to move up time because we used the National Defence Act to be able to help the manufacturing piece of it, to get more equipment," Mr Biden said at the town-hall event in Milwaukee.

He appeared to be referring to the Defence Production Act, a law that allows the government to nationalise commercial production in emergencies.

The White House announced earlier on Tuesday that vaccine shipments to states would rise next week to 13.5 million, from 11 million, while shipments going to pharmacies would double to two million.

However, White House officials warned governors during a call on Tuesday that inclement weather could slow deliveries over the next few days.

COVID-19 vaccination of polling officials in West Bengal to start next week

India started nationwide coronavirus vaccine drive on 16 Photo: PTI

The coronavirus vaccination process of polling official, who will be looking after assembly elections in West Bengal, will commence from 22 February, senior official told PTI. "All polling officials are considered as frontline workers and as per the rule, must be vaccinated before the election process starts in West Bengal. We will commence the inoculation programme for such workers from Monday," he said, quoting PTI.

Nearly 4.5 lakh polling officials will be involved in the election process in the state, a source in the chief election office said, mentioned PTI. All district magistrates have been directed to send the lists of polling officials who will be inoculated first, state health secretary N S Nigam said.

He had recently held a virtual meeting with the district magistrates and health officials in this connection, sources in the Health Department said.

Elections to the 294-member state assembly will be held in April-May.

India has granted emergency use authorisation to two COVID-19 vaccines — Pune-based Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd’s Covaxin which are being used in the government’s vaccination drive. India started nationwide coronavirus vaccine drive on 16. The healthcare workers and frontline workers were the first group to receive the much-awaited COVID-19 vaccine. The distribution of second dose of coronavirus vaccine to beneficiaries began from 13 February.

Over sixty lakh people have received the first dose of coronavirus vaccine in the country.

Russian Covid vaccine faces global production hurdles

People are waiting to get a Sputnik V vaccine in Buenos Aires earlier this month. Photo: Matias Baglietto / Reuters

Russia’s coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, which may have been designed in a state laboratory with the support of Kremlin’s sovereign wealth fund, achieves its goal of vaccination of nearly one-tenth of the world’s population.

Due to limited production capacity in Russia, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which controls the distribution of Sputnik V, is looking to partner countries with large pharmaceutical capacities. Often these outsourced manufacturing transactions Sweetened by a pledge to supply millions of doses to the host government.

However, while this solved Russia’s underproduction problem, the future of vaccines was left to a vast network of outsourced private companies, all operating under the regulations of different countries. Some of them told the Financial Times that it would take months to reach full production.

RDIF told FT that it has signed contracts with 15 manufacturers in 10 countries to produce 1.4 billion jabs, enough to vaccinate 700 million people.

This agreement means that RDIF relies on foreign plants to produce more than twice the dose of Russian companies. Factories in China, South Korea, India and Iran produce shots that can be exported to third countries, while factories in states such as Brazil and Serbia mainly serve domestic demand.

“We have some really big players, they will produce for the whole world, and we have smaller people, they will produce more for local demand. Let’s do it. ” Cyrillic Dmitriev, The head of RDIF. “This is our approach. It solves bigger production problems while at the same time providing local availability.”

RDIF is using its delegated approach to avoid the production shortages that have plagued other Covid-19 vaccine producers AstraZeneca etc while developing a large market for jabs in poor countries.

The question remains as to how quickly Sputnik V’s global production network can meet demand from more than 50 countries. Contractors in India and Brazil, which account for more than half of RDIF’s global production forecast, told FT that mass production of vaccines has not yet begun.

AstraZeneca's vaccine contract with the UK is based on 'best efforts,' just like its deal with a frustrated EU

AstraZeneca's contract to supply the UK with 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses commits it to making "best reasonable efforts," the same language used in its deal with the European Union, which critics blamed for the bloc's faltering inoculation program, CNN said.

The details of the contract are contained in a redacted version published online without fanfare months ago, long before the UK and the EU became embroiled in a bitter dispute over vaccine supply.

British officials had earlier declined to provide the contract to CNN, making no mention of the redacted version, and have repeatedly refused to give details on the country's vaccine supplies, citing "security reasons." A junior UK government minister said in a recent interview that publishing the contract would risk national security.

Yet in response to a Freedom of Information request from CNN, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this week provided CNN a link to the redacted 52-page contract, which had been published on a website that hosts details of UK government contracts. Details like the number of doses to be delivered to the UK and the dates of delivery have been redacted.

The redacted contract has, technically, been publicly available since at least November 26, according to the date the page was last edited. BEIS this week confirmed the same date of publication to CNN. But the link is difficult to find on the government website without using precise search terms and it appears to have gone largely unnoticed.

European Union leaders and AstraZeneca engaged in a public war of words in late January after the company advised the 27-country union that it would deliver tens of millions fewer doses than agreed by the end of March. At the same time, it appeared to be making good on its deliveries to the UK, heightening tensions between Westminster and Brussels, fresh from their Brexit divorce.

The EU then published its own redacted agreement with AstraZeneca. A comparison between the two contracts is now possible.

Singapore receives its first shipment of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine

The first shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines being unloaded from a Singapore Airlines flight on Feb 17, 2021. Photo: Ministry of Communications and Information

Singapore received its first shipment of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday (Feb 17), two weeks after authorities approved it for use here, Channelnewsasia reported.

The vaccines were carried on board Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight SQ7137, a scheduled freighter service from Brussels, Belgium, and arrived in Singapore at about 1.40pm.

"The vaccines were prioritised for loading into the aircraft in Brussels and was given precedence during unloading in Singapore. They were then transported to SATS' cold-chain facility, Coolport, for subsequent storage and ground transportation," SIA said on Wednesday.

It was announced on Feb 3 that the Health Sciences Authority has granted interim authorisation for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to be used in Singapore for people aged 18 years and above.

This is the second vaccine approved for use in Singapore.

SIA had on Dec 21 delivered the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to Singapore.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, said on Facebook that another batch of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine arrived in Singapore on Wednesday morning.

"More vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech will arrive over the course of the year," he added.

"We will continue to monitor our supplies closely, to meet our target of vaccinating all Singaporeans and long-term residents by the end of this year."

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