19 December 2020

• COVAX announces that it has gained access to nearly two billion doses of promising coronavirus vaccine candidates, including those from Oxford/AstraZeneca, J & J and India’s Serum Institute, which will be available in the first half of 2021 – more than half will go to low- and middle-income countries. Canada and France announce that they will contribute surplus vaccine doses to COVAX, although they did not mention their timeline for doing so. Sources 1,2
• India exceeds 10 million coronavirus cases. Source
China announces that vaccination of healthcare, aviation, public transportation and grocery workers in addition to those who process frozen foods will be completed by the Lunar New Year in mid-February, although regulators have not yet approved a coronavirus vaccine candidate. Source
• Chinese officials confirm that over one million people – including civil servants, teachers and hospital workers – have received unapproved coronavirus vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac; officials are awaiting results from ongoing trials in other countries before launching a wider rollout. Source
• Malaysia announces that it will sign an agreement with AstraZeneca enabling it to provide coronavirus vaccines to 20 percent of its population, augmenting an earlier deal with Pfizer/BioNTech for 12.8 million doses; the country also expects to receive enough vaccines for 10 percent of the population from the COVAX facility. Source
• Two more healthcare workers in Alaska experience allergic reactions after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, bringing the total to five – all of whom were treated promptly. Source
• After UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s emergency meeting about imposing new restrictions to curb the spread of a potentially more infectious coronavirus variant, the government abandoned plans to relax rules on socializing during Christmas. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces that some parts of the country may remain under lockdown until the vaccine is rolled out. Sources 1,2,3
• South Africa’s Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, announces that researchers at the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform have identified a new strain of coronavirus (501.V2) similar to one circulating in Britain, noting that it seems to lead to critical illness in a larger proportion of young people with no pre-existing conditions – and is driving a second wave of infections. The exponential rise in cases has led President Cyril Ramaphosa to reimpose measures including curfew, targeted lockdowns, limited alcohol sales and closures of most beaches and public parks. Sources 1,2
• The US issues vaccine guidelines requiring employees to receive coronavirus vaccination, although it cannot require them to be tested for COVID-19. Source
• Sweden announces new recommendations to stop the spread of coronavirus, including mask use, limiting the number of customers at restaurants and stores and banning alcohol sales after 8pm. Source

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