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COVID-19 vaccines touch down in Australia, New Zealand, inoculations to start

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Australia and New Zealand have received their first COVID-19 vaccine deliveries and will begin rolling out inoculations in the coming week, while populous cities of Melbourne and Auckland remained locked down following the emergence of new cases.

“The Eagle has landed,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Monday as the first shipment of 142,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech touched down.

Vaccination in Australia will start from Feb. 22.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the first batch of 60,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines had arrived and would undergo safety checks before border workers start receiving vaccinations from Saturday.

“This will be the largest full-scale vaccination campaign in this country’s history,” Ardern said.

“We have purchased enough vaccines to cover all New Zealanders and to do so for free. That includes all those in New Zealand regardless of their visa status,” Ardern said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-australia-new-zeal-idUSKBN2AF0AL

German sniffer dogs detect COVID-19 with 94% accuracy

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A German veterinary clinic has trained sniffer dogs to detect the novel coronavirus in human saliva samples with 94% accuracy.

The dogs are conditioned to scent out the “corona odour” that comes from cells in infected people, said Esther Schalke, a vet at Germany’s armed forces school for service dogs.

Filou, a 3-year-old Belgian Shepherd, and Joe Cocker, a 1-year-old Cocker Spaniel, are two of the dogs being trained at Hanover’s University of Veterinary Medicine.

“We did a study where we had dogs sniffing samples from COVID-positive patients and we can say that they have a 94% probability in our study … that they can sniff them out,” said Holger Volk, head of the veterinary clinic.

“So dogs can really sniff out people with infections and without infections, as well as asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID patients,” he added.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-germany-sniffer-do/german-sniffer-dogs-detect-covid-19-with-94-accuracy-idUSKBN2A32Q4

New vaccines are “highly adaptable” and can be tweaked against COVID-19 variants, experts say

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With mutations to the COVID-19 virus surfacing around the world, there’s growing concern over whether newly released vaccines can keep up. But experts say the advanced technology used to create them is a significant advantage.

“That is clearly an advantage of the mRNA platform. I mean this is highly adaptable, flexible,” said Stanford immunology professor Bali Pulendran, Ph.D.

Pulendran is describing the technique used by both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, known as messenger-RNA. Essentially, it’s a genetic script delivered into the body. It instructs our cells to make a safe fragment of the COVID-19 virus, coaxing our immune system into cranking out antibodies to attack it. And he says that script can be efficiently rewritten if necessary.

“So now we’re in the situation of having to tweak it by a few mutations here and there, and I expect that this could proceed quite rapidly,” said Pulendran.

Vaccine maker Moderna has already announced that it’s working on a new booster for its vaccine. It’s aimed at the so-called South African variation of the virus, which has some researchers concerned. Pfizer’s bio-tech partner in Germany says it could be able to adjust it’s RNA coding in as little as six weeks, if there’s a serious challenge.

https://abc7news.com/covid-19-vaccine-virus-variants-moderna-pfizer/10043873/

Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine given full approval by EU regulator

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The European Medicines Agency has authorised the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for use in all adult age groups after days of doubt.

A month after it received approval in the UK, the EU’s regulator declared the vaccine safe for general use across the 27 member states.

The shot is the third Covid-19 vaccine given the green light by the EMA, after ones made by Pfizer and Moderna. Both were authorised for all adults.

There had been concerns that a lack of data about the effects of the vaccine on older people could put authorisation for those aged over 65 in doubt.

Earlier this week, a committee at Germany’s public health body, the Robert Koch Institute, said there was insufficient data to judge, and as a result it could only recommend using the vaccine on people aged 18 to 64. The final decision rests with the government, but it is likely to follow this advice.

In an interview with la Repubblica on Tuesday, AstraZeneca’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, said his company’s latest studies had shown “very strong antibody production against the virus in the elderly, similar to what we see in younger people”. The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, had also said he had confidence that the vaccine was safe and “produced an immune response in all age groups”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/29/oxford-astrazeneca-covid-vaccine-full-approval-eu-regulator

Dr. Anthony Fauci Says Venues, Theaters Could Reopen by Fall 2021

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said he thinks theaters and other live entertainment venues could reopen “some time in the fall of 2021” during a conference held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals on Saturday, January 9th.

As The New York Times reports, Fauci said live entertainment’s return depended on vaccination rollout and getting between 70 to 85% of the population vaccinated.

“If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021, so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience,” Fauci said.

During the APAP conference, Fauci said the concert industry could take some cues from the airlines when it comes to reopening and said admittance to shows could hinge on showing a negative Covid-19 test. He also cited a recent study in Germany that showed arena concerts could be safe if the venue was outfitted with a good ventilation system and had other safety protocols in place. One such precaution, however, is keeping shows at limited capacity, and as several live music industry professionals recently told Rolling Stone, many concerts aren’t financially feasible if venues can’t operate at full capacity.

While caution and vigilance remained Fauci’s top concerns, he did end on an optimistic note, saying, “We’ll be back in the theaters — performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it. It will happen.”

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/dr-anthony-fauci-theaters-music-venues-reopen-fall-2021-1112542/

The E.U. begins its vaccine rollout, aiming to inoculate more than 450 million people

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From nursing homes in France to hospitals in Poland, older Europeans and the workers who care for them rolled up their sleeves on Sunday to receive coronavirus vaccine shots in a campaign to inoculate more than 450 million people across the European Union.

The inoculations offered a rare respite as the continent struggles with one of its most precarious moments since the pandemic began.

Despite national lockdowns, restrictions on movement, shuttering of restaurants and cancellations of Christmas gatherings, the virus has stalked Europe into the dark winter months. The spread of a more contagious variant of the virus in Britain has raised such alarm that much of continental Europe rushed to close its borders to travelers coming from the country, effectively plunging the nation as a whole into quarantine.

“Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president wrote on Twitter. “The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries.”

For Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, the vaccine’s arrival could not come soon enough. Italy’s suffering at the outset of the pandemic served as a warning for the world, and the current death toll is again among the worst in Europe.

“Today Italy reawakens. It’s #VaccineDay,” he wrote on Twitter after a 29-year-old nurse at Rome’s Spallanzani hospital was the first person to be inoculated. “This date will remain with us forever.”

The nurse, Claudia Alivernini, said she hoped the vaccination campaign would signal “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic.

In Spain, a 96-year-old great-grandmother, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo, was the first to receive the vaccine. The Los Olmos nursing home, where she lives, is in Guadalajara,  a city that has a special storage facility where the first doses of the vaccine were delivered on Saturday, transported from Belgium.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on Twitter that the  vaccinations marked “a hopeful new chapter.”

Similar scenes played out across the continent, although not every member of the bloc followed the rollout plans. In Germany, a nursing home in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt jumped the gun, inoculating dozens of residents and staff members on Saturday, hours after the doses arrived. Officials in the Netherlands said they planned to begin vaccinations on Jan. 8.

But all E.U. member nations now have a supply of vaccine on hand to distribute.

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/12/27/world/covid-19-coronavirus-updatesHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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EU launches mass Covid-19 vaccination push in ‘moment of unity’

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European Union nations have launched a co-ordinated effort to give Covid-19 vaccinations to adults among their 450 million citizens.

Shots were administered on Sunday morning to the most vulnerable people, healthcare workers who take care of them, and some politicians to reassure the public that the vaccinations are safe.

The vaccines, developed by Germany’s BioNTech and American drug maker Pfizer, started arriving in EU countries on Friday. The EU has seen some of the world’s earliest and hardest-hit virus hot spots, including Italy and Spain.

Others EU countries, like the Czech Republic, were spared the worst early on only to see their healthcare systems near collapse in the autumn.

Altogether, the EU’s 27 nations have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus cases and more than 336,000 deaths – huge numbers that experts still agree understate the true toll of the pandemic due to missed cases and limited testing.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen released a video celebrating the vaccine rollout, calling it “a touching moment of unity”.

https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/eu-launches-mass-covid-19-vaccination-push-moment-unity/HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Vaccines Effective Against New Coronavirus Strain: German Health Minister

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The new virus strain “has no impact on the vaccines”, said German Health Minister.

European Union experts believe existing vaccines against coronavirus are effective against the new fast-spreading strain identified in Britain, Germany’s health minister said Sunday.

“According to everything we know so far” the new strain “has no impact on the vaccines”, which remain “just as effective”, Jens Spahn told public broadcaster ZDF, citing “talks among experts of European authorities”.

Spahn was referring especially to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is already being administered in countries including the US and UK and which is on the brink of receiving approval from the European Medicines Agency.

A health ministry spokesman said the EU experts’ meeting had taken place on Sunday and included representatives of Berlin’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health.

A number of EU nations have banned air travel from Britain in response to the new strain, while France said it would block people arriving from the UK and all freight unless it is unaccompanied.

https://network20news.com/international/21/12/2020/vaccines-effective-against-new-coronavirus-strain-german-health-minister/HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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2nd COVID-19 vaccine authorized in US preparing to ship out

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Workers on Sunday began packaging shipments of the second COVID-19 vaccine authorized in the U.S., a desperately needed boost to efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

Employees at a factory in the Memphis area were boxing up the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health. The much-needed shots are expected to be given starting Monday, just three days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized their emergency rollout.

Later Sunday, an expert committee will debate who should be next in line for early doses of the Moderna vaccine and a similar one from Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech. Pfizer’s shots were first shipped out a week ago and started being used the next day, kicking off the nation’s biggest vaccination drive.

Public health experts say the shots — and others in the pipeline — are the only way to stop a virus that has been spreading wildly. Nationwide, more than 219,000 people per day on average test positive for the virus, which has killed more than 314,000 in the U.S. and nearly 1.7 million worldwide.

https://apnews.com/article/us-news-pandemics-coronavirus-pandemic-coronavirus-vaccine-145d1bae81aaa05df26cfed0d24f0e10HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Moderna expects European approval for COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 12

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Moderna expects the European Union to approve its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in mid-January and is ready to start distribution immediately afterwards, the head of its European division told German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung.

“We expect approval for the EU and thus for Germany on Jan. 12,” Dan Staner was quoted as saying on Monday. “As soon as we have received the approval, we can deliver.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-vaccine-moderna-idUSKBN28O1OSHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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