• Saturday, Sep 18, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:21 pm

EU gets vaccine boost as WHO dampens hope of herd immunity

  • Published at 12:44 am January 13th, 2021
Britain coronavirus vaccine Covid-19 AstraZeneca
Brian Pinker, 82, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, Britain January 4, 2021 Reuters

The 27-nation EU -- under fire for lengthy approval processes and slow national rollouts of drugs -- promised an 'accelerated timeline' 

The European Union started the approval process for its third vaccine yesterday after WHO scientists warned that herd immunity from coronavirus was unlikely this year even with mass inoculation schemes.

The 27-nation EU -- under fire for lengthy approval processes and slow national rollouts of drugs -- promised an "accelerated timeline" after confirming drug company AstraZeneca had applied for approval for the jab it developed with Oxford University.

The EU's medicines agency said a decision would still not come before January 29, even though the drug is already being used in countries including Britain.

And even with mass vaccinations, World Health Organization (WHO) scientists warned that coverage would still not be wide enough for population-level immunity this year.

"We are not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021," said WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan of a disease that has already infected more than 90 million people worldwide and killed almost two million.

The United States remains the worst affected country, posting daily death tolls in multiple thousands, but European hospitals are increasingly warning of stretched resources and Asian countries are also facing upsurges.

Malaysia declared a state of emergency yesterday as fears grow that its health system is close to being overwhelmed, after China and Japan took measures against localized clusters.

China added a city of five million to a growing lockdown area near Beijing yesterday, as WHO experts arrive in the central city of Wuhan to probe the origins of the disease.

Japan is working to isolate and analyze a new variant detected in four people who arrived from Brazil.

'Superspreader event'

With recriminations already flying over America's longer-term handling of the virus, lawmakers voiced fury yesterday over the actions of some of their peers during last week's ructions in Washington DC.

Congress members were forced to hunker down in secure rooms as supporters of President Donald Trump marauded through the corridors of the Capitol building, and some have now tested positive for coronavirus and squarely blamed their colleagues.

"Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum Covid-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic -- creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack," said Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has since tested positive.

US President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to devote all available resources to fight the pandemic, received his second vaccine dose on Monday of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab -- the first to be approved in Western countries.

German firm BioNTech said it could produce millions more doses than originally expected this year, but warned that Covid-19 was likely become an endemic disease and vaccines would be needed to fight new variants.

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