US on track to nearly triple vaccine production in March, as new variants put pressure on Europe and Brazil

The US immunization program is expected to be stepped up by the end of March as manufacturers ramp up production to nearly triple February production, giving hope that the nation can act faster to get gunshots and avoid the spike of cases which is caused by new variants in Europe and elsewhere.

The United States is expected to manufacture 132 million doses of the vaccine in March, up from 48 million in February, according to estimates by analysts at Evercore. This is after companies, with the help of the federal government, were able to ramp up production and increase production by taking measures such as manufacturing certain raw materials themselves, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. .

Pfizer Inc. PFE,
+ 0.46%,
for example, began to recycle the special filters necessary for the manufacturing process, while Moderna Inc. MRNA,
+ 5.56%
shortened the time it takes to inspect and package new vials, the newspaper reported. The government has helped companies access supplies using the Defense Production Act, providing $ 105 million in funding to help Merck & Co. MRK,
+ 0.27%
do the Johnson and Johnson JNJ,
vaccine under an agreement negotiated by the Biden administration.

There was good news about the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC AZN,
and the University of Oxford, in the form of a US clinical trial involving more than 32,000 people who have found it safe and 79% effective in preventing symptomatic disease.

AstraZeneca said it would continue to analyze the data and prepare its emergency clearance application with the United States Food and Drug Administration, a move that, if approved, would add a third blow to the program. existing from Pfizer and Moderna, as the Journal reported.

The news comes after several countries temporarily halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to severe blood clotting in a very small number of patients in Europe who received the vaccine. US trials have identified no increased risk of serious blood clotting. European and UK drug regulators had previously approved the vaccine and said the clotting problems were unrelated to it.

Raymond James analyst Chris Meekins said there was a race between vaccines and variants.

“As we warned months ago, some variants of the virus are of concern,” Meekins wrote in a note to customers on Monday. “While our nationwide caseload, hospitalization and death toll remains encouraging, warning signs of further variations in Michigan and New York are one to watch out for. Other countries lagging behind the United States on vaccinations, face significant flare-ups due to variant strains. “

The global tally of COVID cases rose for a second week in a row, averaging 459,000, a six-week high, Meekins said. Brazil, which is struggling with the highly infectious P1 variant, added as many cases as the United States and India combined, and the cumulative number of cases has surpassed that of India to become number 2 in the world.

“The situation in Europe has also deteriorated: from France in the west to Ukraine in the east, there is a third wave,” he writes.

Germany and France are extending the shutdowns, while Brazil is urging local authorities to give more people a first jab, instead of saving the doses for the second jab.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracking shows as of 6:00 a.m. ET Sunday, 156.7 million doses had been delivered to states, 124.5 million doses had been administered and 81.4 million people had received at least one dose, i.e. 24.5% of the population. A total of 44.1 million Americans had received two doses, or 13.3% of the population.

See also: Gowns, masks, disinfectant, but where is the emotional PPE?

The United States added at least 34,217 new cases on Sunday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 444 people have died. These numbers may be underreported given the reduction in hospital staff at weekends. The United States has recorded an average of 54,404 cases per day over the past week, down 7% from two weeks ago.

The United States continues to dominate the world in terms of cases, with nearly 30 million, or about a fifth of the global tally, and of deaths with 542,524, or about a quarter of the global number.

Don’t miss: The vaccines are there. This is no reason to stop the hunt for effective treatments for COVID-19.

In other news:

• Miami Beach officials warned on Sunday that the unruly spring break crowds gathering in the thousands, fighting in the streets, destroying restaurant properties and refusing to wear masks had become a serious threat to public safety, said reported the Associated Press. After more than 1,000 arrests over the weekend, authorities voted to extend a highly unusual curfew to 8 p.m. for another week along famous South Beach, with the option of extending it until in April if necessary, and stressed that this was not the typical spring break crowd. . They said they were not college students, but adults looking to let loose in one of the few fully open states during the pandemic. Local authorities have struggled to enforce COVID orders. Florida has no statewide mask rules, capacity limits, or other such restrictions, thanks to the pro-business stance of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said withdrawing public health measures was risky as cases could level off and then rebound, as they did in Europe.

• Kent Taylor, founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, has died aged 65, the AP reported. His family and the company say he committed suicide after suffering from symptoms related to COVID-19, including severe tinnitus. Taylor’s family and the company confirmed his death in a statement on Sunday. Tinnitus is a common condition involving ringing or other noises in one or both ears. Experts say the coronavirus can exacerbate tinnitus problems. “Kent fought and fought like the former track and field champion he was, but the suffering which has intensified dramatically in recent days has become unbearable,” the statement said.

• Shares of listed airlines in the UK slipped on Monday over fears that a potential third wave of COVID-19 cases could derail the summer vacation, MarketWatch’s Steve Goldstein reported. Group of international airlines IAG,
easyJet EZJ,
Wizz Air Wizz,
and Ryanair RYA,
fell between 3% and 6% after science advisers reportedly urged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to lift the ban on holidays abroad. The news comes as Germany was on the verge of extending a lockdown and the European Union struggled in its vaccination campaign and now plans to block exports of AstraZeneca vaccines to the UK

• Moderna Inc. has agreed to provide the Philippines with an additional seven million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, reported Tomi Kilgore of MarketWatch. This brings the total number of doses the Philippines has obtained from Moderna to 20 million, including the previously announced supply agreement of 13 million doses, in which deliveries would begin in mid-2021. Moderna said its vaccine is currently not approved for use in the Philippines, and will therefore work with regulators to obtain approvals before doses are distributed.

• More than 6,000 people, most of them unmasked, took part in an illegal street party in the French city of Marseille over the weekend, in what was described as an “unacceptable” rule violation, the AFP. Marseille was not among the 16 different regions that entered a new lockdown on Saturday, with a current workload lower than national hot spots such as the neighboring city of Nice along the Mediterranean coast or the capital region. “It is totally unacceptable at a time when we are all making efforts, we are adapting and we are organizing to respect the different rules in order to fight against the pandemic”, declared Monday the spokesperson of the Ministry of the Interior Camille Chaize on Franceinfo radio. Nine people were arrested and dozens were fined, she said.

Alerts and web navigation tools can help you make an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine. Joanna Stern of the WSJ sat down with Kris Slevens, a computer scientist who has booked over 300 appointments for New Jersey seniors, to learn the best tips for participating in the Hunger Games of vaccine booking. Photo illustration: Emil Lendof for the Wall Street Journal

• New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the state’s coronavirus vaccine program will be open to all New Yorkers aged 50 or older starting at 8:00 a.m. ET Tuesday. The governor made the announcement during a briefing. New York has the second-highest death toll from the coronavirus-transmitted disease COVID-19 in the United States after California, mainly due to the high death toll when it became a hotspot last spring. The state’s vaccine tracking system shows that as of 11 a.m. on Monday, 5.1 million New Yorkers had received at least one dose, or 25.7 percent of the population, while 2.65 million New Yorkers received two doses, or 13.2% of the population.

Latest statements

The global tally of COVID-19 cases topped 123 million on Monday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll rose to 2.71 million.

Nearly 70 million people have recovered from COVID, data shows.

Brazil has the second number of deaths after the United States with 294,042 and the second number of cases with 11.9 million.

India is third with 11.6 million cases and fourth by deaths with 159,967.

Mexico has 198,036 deaths, the third in the world and the 13th in number of cases.

The UK has 4.3 million cases and 126,410 deaths, the highest in Europe and the fifth in the world.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has recorded 101,533 confirmed cases and 4,839 deaths, according to its official figures.

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