The virus has caused over 2.4 million deaths since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019
The European Union has agreed to fast-track approvals of vaccines updated to target coronavirus variants, the bloc's health commissioner said on Sunday, following criticism of the EU's sluggish vaccine drive.
"We looked at the process together with the European Medicines Agency (EMA)," Stella Kyriakides told German daily Augsburger Allgemeine in an interview.
"And we have now decided that a vaccine, which has been improved by a manufacturer based on its previous vaccine to combat new mutations, no longer has to go through the entire approvals process.
The EU's vaccine rollout has been snagged by delays and controversies, leaving it lagging behind countries like the United States, Britain and Israel where a larger share of the population has been injected so far.
European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen last week admitted that mistakes had been made in procuring vaccines on behalf of all 27 member states.
She told the European Parliament that the bloc had been late to authorise jabs, and had underestimated the difficulties of vaccine mass production.
She also warned that scientists do not yet know if the vaccines approved so far -- those by BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford -- will remain effective against new mutations.
The virus has caused over 2.4 million deaths since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, with 109,146,653 cases, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Sunday.
The United States is the worst-affected country with 496,066 deaths followed by Brazil with 238,647, Mexico with 173,771, India with 155,673 and the UK with 116,908.
US voices 'concerns' about WHO findings
The United States has "deep concerns" about the early findings of an expert investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in China and is asking Beijing for more information, national security advisor Jake Sullivan said.
"It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government," he added.
Meanwhile, WHO experts told AFP in an interview that they had not received access to enough raw data while in China probing the pandemic's origins, saying more was needed to detect possible early Covid-19 cases.
No end to pandemic without fair access to vaccine
Developing new Covid-19 vaccines will not end the pandemic unless all countries receive doses in a fast and fair manner, disease experts warned.
As several nations consider implementing vaccine passports when international travel resumes, the authors of a letter published in the Lancet medical journal said vaccine stockpiling in wealthier countries would only prolong the global health emergency.
Peru: Record number of hospitalizations
Peru, which is facing a second wave of Covid-19 infections, has registered a record number of hospitalized cases, the health ministry said.
In the past 24 hours, 213 new admissions were reported, bringing the total to 14,333. The previous record of 14,181 hospitalisations was reached on August 17.
The number of infections and deaths has quadrupled from their level at the end of December.
Iran warns of a fourth wave
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned of a "fourth wave" of the virus as cases rise in certain areas of the Middle Eastern country hardest hit by the pandemic.
He said some cities in the southwestern province of Khuzestan were now "red" -- the highest on Iran's colour-coded risk level -- after weeks of low alert levels across the country. Iran has lost close to 59,000 lives out of more than 1.5 million cases of Covid infection.