Coronavirus LIVE Updates: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan today received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Vardhan received his jab of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin in front of cameras at the Delhi Heart and Lung Institute along with his wife Nutan Goel. The minister and his wife paid Rs 250 each. “Me and my wife…neither of us have experienced any side-effects so far,” he told reporters. “I appeal to all those who are above 60 and above 45 with comorbidities. Please go ahead and get vaccinated either at government or private hospitals.” He said the vaccines will prove to be “sanjeevani for all of us”. The second phase of the vaccination drive, for those over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 with illnesses, began yesterday. Among other key names that got vaccinated today are Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur and National Conference MP Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo became the first recipient of a coronavirus vaccine under the global Covax scheme, as US health workers prepared to distribute nearly four million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson jab. Covax, a scheme designed to ensure poorer countries do not miss out on vaccinations, is aiming to deliver at least two billion jabs by the end of the year. Akufo-Addo received his AstraZeneca shot live on television along with his wife, while in neighbouring Ivory Coast a presidential spokesman got the country’s first jab, also part of a Covax delivery. Ivory Coast received some 504,000 doses from Covax, while Ghana got 600,000 that it will start to roll out this week.
“It is important that I set the example that this vaccine is safe by being the first to have it, so that everybody in Ghana can feel comfortable,” the president said. Colombia became the first country in the Americas to receive vaccines through Covax, with President Ivan Duque hailing the day as “a very important milestone.” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed Covax’s progress. “It’s encouraging to see health workers in lower-income countries starting to be vaccinated, but it’s regrettable that this comes almost three months after some of the wealthiest countries started their vaccination campaigns,” he said.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi also got vaccinated on Monday — although a glitch in the online booking system meant thousands of others were turned away from hospitals nationwide. And in the United States, 3.9 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are due to be delivered after it became the third jab approved by US regulators. The J&J rollout comes as a boost to President Joe Biden’s plan to beat back a virus that has killed more than half a million Americans, making the US the world’s worst-hit nation.
Also on Monday was the latest in a string of positive news about the available vaccines: a British study showed that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were “highly effective” in preventing serious illness in older people, with a more than 80 percent reduction in hospitalisation. The real-world study came just hours before France reversed its decision and authorised the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65. Health Minister Olivier Veran said the vaccine would be extended to those between 65-75 with comorbidities. Germany is also believed to be reconsidering its refusal to authorise the vaccine for the elderly over earlier concerns over its efficacy.
Despite the promising signs from vaccines, the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan said it was “unrealistic to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year”. “But I think what we can finish with, if we’re smart, is the hospitalisations, the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic,” he added. He pointed out that global new case numbers increased last week after six consecutive weeks of decline.
Vaccines are seen as crucial to returning the world to normality and healing the economy after a pandemic that has claimed more than 2.5 million lives across the globe. More than 224 million doses have been administered worldwide, according to national data compiled by AFP, with the Philippines among the latest countries to launch a rollout on Monday. A new row is brewing over a call led by India and South Africa for intellectual property rights to the vaccines to be waived. Backed by dozens of governments from Argentina to Bangladesh, they argue that this would boost production and ultimately bring the pandemic to a swifter end.