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EU Approves J&J Vaccine; Countries Halt Astra Shot: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine won clearance from the European Union’s drugs regulator. Meanwhile, EU governments are bracing for further possible delays in the distribution of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid vaccine after a warning from the European Commission that the manufacturer remains a problem.Denmark joined other European countries in suspending use of a batch of Astra’s vaccine due to safety concerns. The European Medicines Agency has said it’s investigating but has found no evidence linking the vaccine to blood clotting.In the U.S., President Joe Biden has ordered almost enough vaccines to fully inoculate every American adult twice, expanding production as he faces both uncertainty about domestic needs and calls from shot-starved allies to share the country’s supply. Brazil reported a record number of deaths, with the country set to retake the post of second hardest-hit nation in the world.Key Developments:Global Tracker: Cases near 118 million; deaths top 2.6 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 326 million shots given worldwideOne Year of Covid Has Changed Life in the U.S. ForeverCovid Outbreak Hits Banks, Gyms, Schools in Hong KongWho’s right in the U.K. and EU’s spat over vaccine exports?: Q&ASubscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.EU Regulator Recommends J&J Vaccine (8:22 a.m. NY)Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine won clearance from the European Union’s drugs regulator, paving the way for the first single-injection shot to help bolster the region’s sluggish vaccination campaign.The European Medicines Agency recommended that the EU approve the vaccine. The European Commission must now rubber-stamp the decision before the product can be distributed.U.K. Says Astra Covid Vaccine Is Safe (7:38 a.m. NY)“The vaccine is safe and it is effective,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman Jamie Davies said on a call with reporters on Thursday, when asked for a response to Denmark suspending the use of the vaccine.Italy, Norway and Iceland joined Denmark and other EU countries in suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine until concerns about blood clots have been further investigated. Iceland’s chief epidemiologist said he expects that it will be cleared again in a few days.EU Governments Brace for More Vaccine Delays (6:47 a.m. NY)EU governments are bracing for further possible delays in the distribution of Astra’s vaccine after a warning from the European Commission that the manufacturer remains a problem, according to a diplomatic note seen by Bloomberg.At a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday, diplomats were told by senior EU officials that Astra continues to be “problematic.” They also heard that Johnson & Johnson has yet to provide a delivery schedule for its vaccine. Also on Thursday, the EU said it was extending its vaccine export control mechanism to the end of June from mid-March, citing “persistent delays” in some deliveries.Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Blocks Most Spread in Israel Study (6:47 a.m. NY)Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s coronavirus vaccine blocked 94% of asymptomatic infections in an Israeli study that further builds the case for the shot’s overwhelming effectiveness against the virus. The vaccine stopped 97% of symptomatic cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the companies and the Israeli Ministry of Health said on Thursday.Separately, the Israel Defense Forces said it reached herd immunity, with some 81% of soldiers vaccinated or recovered from the virus. Among the general population of the country, more than half have had at least one vaccine dose, according to Health Ministry data.EU, U.K. Should ‘Change Mindset’ on Post-Brexit Ties: Ambassador (6:15 a.m. NY)“We need to make an effort to change the mindset, and give up on trying to score points on disputes of the past,” EU Ambassador to the U.K. Joao Vale de Almeida said at a press briefing with reporters on Thursday.The comments were made after the EU urged the U.K. to come clean about its exports of vaccines, amid an increasingly terse dispute where the bloc accused Britain of having an export ban. U.K.’s Johnson said Britain has not blocked any vaccine exports and he “opposes vaccine nationalism in all its forms.”Duterte Mulls More Economic Reopening Soon as Virus Cases Spike (5:47 a.m. NY)Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is considering further reopening the economy in weeks, even as daily coronavirus infections rose to its highest in six months. Looser movement restrictions may be put in place if one million people have been vaccinated.The Southeast Asian nation, whose economy has been stunted by among the world’s longest lockdowns, reported Thursday its highest daily case count since mid-September, bringing the total to over 607,000.Poland New Cases at Highest Since November (5:34 p.m. HK)Poland registered 21,045 new cases in last 24 hours, most since Nov. 24, after adding 17,260 the day before, according to Health Ministry. The country of 38 million has so far administered 4.23 million vaccine doses, including 1.49 million with a second dose.Denmark Suspends AstraZeneca Vaccine (4:45 p.m. HK)Denmark joined other European countries in suspending use of a batch of Astra’s vaccine due to concerns about blood clots, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said in tweet Thursday. The suspension is a “precautionary” measure and “currently we are not able to conclude if there is a connection,” the minister said. Shares in AstraZeneca fell as much as 2.7%.The European Medicines Agency has said it’s investigating but has found no evidence linking the vaccine to clotting. The batch number ABV5300 was delivered to 17 EU countries, including Denmark, and comprises 1 million doses. Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia have also suspended this batch as a precautionary measure, while a full investigation is ongoing.As of March 9, 22 cases of thromboembolic events had been reported among the 3 million people vaccinated with Astra’s vaccine in Europe.Pakistan Crosses 2,000 Cases First Time Since January (4:20 p.m. HK)Pakistan reported 2,258 new daily cases, the most in seven weeks. The country decided to shut some schools early for spring holidays and delayed a decision to open cinemas, indoor dining and wedding ceremonies a day earlier after the spike.Heathrow’s Passengers at Lowest Since 1966 (3:17 p.m. HK)London’s Heathrow Airport monthly passenger numbers fell below 500,000 in February, the lowest since 1966, due to the ban on all but essential travel, blanket quarantine, pre-departure and post-arrival testing, according to a statement Thursday. The airport is working with the government’s taskforce to facilitate safe restart of international travel after May 17.EU to Extend Vaccine Export Controls (2:33 p.m. HK)The EU has agreed to extend vaccine export controls until the end of June, Politico reported, citing diplomats and officials. Brussels is set to finalize the decision today, according to the report. The regulation which makes the export of vaccines to about 100 countries subject to authorization, was planned to run until end March. So far the bloc has authorized the vast majority of exports. However, Italy blocked a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia earlier this month.German Cases Rise Most Since Mid-January (2:30 p.m. HK)Cases in Germany rose the most since Jan. 21, and the country’s seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed to the highest in more than a month. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has started lifting some lockdown restrictions, with schools partially reopening and hairdressers allowed to resume business, and has mapped out a path for a possible further easing linked to the infection rate.India Numbers Jump (2:25 p.m. HK)India reported 22,854 new infections on Thursday — the biggest one-day jump this year — as the Asian nation sees a fresh spurt in states such as Maharashtra. This has triggered fears of tighter regional restrictions and threatens to thwart a nascent recovery in the Indian economy. The total tally is now 11.29 million cases, while the death toll is at 158,189, government data show. More than 25 million vaccine doses have been administered in India.Outbreak Hits Banks, Gyms, Schools in Hong Kong (1:02 p.m. HK)A coronavirus outbreak at a Hong Kong gym has spread to international schools and other fitness centers, while positive cases also appeared in the banking community just as the city was emerging from a prolonged round of social restrictions and venue closures.There are at least 17 confirmed cases and 30 preliminary cases connected to the gym, the government said Thursday. The government may consider tightening curbs again, Under Secretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi said at a briefing.Brazil’s Covid Cash Bill (12:29 p.m. HK)Brazil’s lower house of congress backed a $ 7.5 billion Covid aid bill in a first vote, hours after Latin America’s largest economy posted a record virus death toll for a single day.Lawmakers voted early Thursday in favor of a so-called emergency bill that revives last year’s monthly stipends that kept millions of poor households afloat. To assuage investor concern, the bill also includes compensatory fiscal measures to demonstrate a commitment to austerity. The bill requires a second-round vote in the house, scheduled for Thursday morning.Hong Kong’s Vaccine No-Show Rate Rises (11:19 a.m. HK)Fewer residents in the city are showing up to get vaccines from Chinese maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. amid reports of side effects, even as demand was strong for shots developed by BioNTech-Pfizer on the day of their debut. The number of people who received their scheduled Sinovac immunizations at community vaccination centers fell to 72% on Wednesday, down from a high of more than 90% last week. More than one-third of those who signed up for the vaccine, 36%, were no-shows on Tuesday.Glaxo-Vir to Seek U.S. Approval for Treatment (9:33 a.m. HK)GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology plan to submit an emergency use authorization application in the U.S. after the phase three trial of their antibody therapy found 85% reduction in hospitalization or death compared with placebo. They also presented data showing the therapy is active against variants that have originated in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.Half-Price Flights in Australia (7:57 a.m. HK)Australia’s government will subsidize 800,000 half-price airfares as part of a A$ 1.2 billion ($ 920 million) package to prop up the nation’s ailing tourism industry. The discounted fares are designed to help tourism-dependent regions and should support airlines, hotels and hospitality venues, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.South Korea Approves Astra’s Vaccine (7:47 a.m. HK)South Korea will offer AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 65 and older as efficacy is confirmed and European nations, including Germany and Italy, recommend the use, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.Pandemic Relief Checks (7:29 a.m. HK)Households will begin receiving the $ 1,400 stimulus payments included in the pandemic-relief bill approved by Congress before the end of March, according to the White House. President Biden plans to sign the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus legislation into law on Friday, a package that includes more than $ 410 billion of direct payments for most Americans. Individuals who earn as much as $ 75,000, or couples making $ 150,000, plus their children or adult dependents, qualify for the full $ 1,400 per person.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.