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Coronavirus briefs: US approves vaccine

United States: FDA approves Pfizer vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday authorised the use in the United States of a vaccine against COVID-19 developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.

The FDA had come under pressure from Donald Trump to approve the vaccine, with various US media quoting Trump as telling the FDA’s director to issue the authorisation by Friday or resign. On Friday, the outgoing U.S. president described the FDA’s decision as a “medical miracle,” in a brief video aired on Twitter. He said the first vaccine would be administered in 24 hours.

Also on Friday, the USA ordered 100 million additional doses of a vaccine developed by Moderna, thus doubling the number pre-ordered from the U.S. biotechnology firm.

The USA continues to lead the world in COVID-19 infections, with a record 235,000 in 24 hours on Friday, while cumulative deaths were at 295,000, including 2,600 in the past 24 hours, according to the dashboard maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Mexico: Vaccinations to begin in late December

Coronavirus vaccinations are scheduled to begin in Mexico in late December with a first batch of 250,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.

The vaccine was approved for use in Mexico earlier this month. It will be administered in two doses to 125,000 persons.

Mexico is one of six countries to authorise the vaccine developed by the U.S./German alliance. The others are the United Kingdom, Canada, Bahrein, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to follow suit by late December.

Brazil: Deaths climb to 180,000

COVID-19 deaths topped the 180,000 mark in Brazil on Friday, according to the latest tally from the Health Ministry, which said 646 people had died in the past 24 hours.

Deaths plateaued at over 1000 a day from June to August, dropped gradually to an average of under 400 by mid-November, but spiked again in recent weeks. Now, over 90% of beds in intensive care are occupied in 7 of the country’s 27 states.

Ignoring the new wave of infections, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that Brazil was at the “very end of the pandemic.”

However, specialists expect infections to soar in the next few weeks as families get together for the Christmas/New Year holidays and more of the 212 million Brazilians head for beaches that were already crowded on Friday.

Germany: Volkswagen closes plants in three locations

Volkswagen has decided to close plants in Wolfsburg, Brunswick (Braunschweig) and Emden, northern Germany, due to a risk of COVID-19 infection, German media reported on Friday.

“Production will be stopped from Monday evening,” the spokesman for the Braunschweig plant said.

The move follows the discovery of infections at a factory that supplies spongy rubber and material used in the manufacture of seats.

The Brussels Times