TORONTO — Canada won’t be getting any Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines next week and 50 percent fewer than expected over the next month, officials said Tuesday, prompting the leader of Canada’s most populous province to ask U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to share a million doses from Pfizer’s Michigan plant.

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau is Canada’s prime minister. U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed last week it would temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe and Canada of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity at its plant in Puurs, Belgium. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via Associated Press

Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout and distribution of vaccines, called it a major reduction, but said Pfizer is still expected to meet its contractual obligation to ship four million doses to Canada by the end of March.

U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed last week it would temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe and Canada of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity at its plant in Puurs, Belgium. Pfizer’s Belgian plant supplies all shots delivered outside the U.S. Fortin said other countries have been impacted this week and that Canada will be impacted next week.

“Pfizer assured me and Canada of equitable treatment,” Procurement Minister Anita Anand said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week, she told him that media have been asking her why Germany isn’t doing as well as Canada on vaccines.

Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said he’s angry. He asked Biden to help Canada out, noting there’s a Pfizer plant in Michigan.

“Our American friends, help us out,” Ford said. “You have a new president, no more excuses. Help us out.”

Ford notes Ontario is a large trading partner to the U.S.

“I can’t help but ask the president,” Ford said. “The least thing you can do … give us a million vaccines. You have a hundred million down there. Give your great neighbor which stands shoulder to shoulder with you a million vaccines to get us over the hump. That’s what we would love to see from the president.”

A mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, temporarily closed due to the shortage.

U.S. virus deaths top a ‘shameful’ 400,000 as Trump leaves office

As President Trump entered the final year of his term last January, the U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Not to worry, Trump insisted, his administration had the virus “totally under control.”

Virus_Outbreak_400K_Dead_27115

Erika Bermudez becomes emotional as she leans over the grave of her mother, Eudiana Smith, at Bayview Cemetery in Jersey City, N.J., on May 2. Bermudez was not allowed to approach the gravesite until cemetery workers had buried her mother, who died of COVID-19. Other members of the family and friends stayed in their cars. Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Now, in his final hours in office, after a year of presidential denials of reality and responsibility, the pandemic’s U.S. death toll has eclipsed 400,000. And the loss of lives is accelerating.

“This is just one step on an ominous path of fatalities,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and one of many public health experts who contend the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis led to thousands of avoidable deaths.

“Everything about how it’s been managed has been infused with incompetence and dishonesty, and we’re paying a heavy price,” he said.

The 400,000-death toll, reported Tuesday by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of New Orleans, Cleveland or Tampa, Florida. It’s nearly equal to the number of American lives lost annually to strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined.

With more than 4,000 deaths recorded on some recent days — the most since the pandemic began — the toll by week’s end will probably surpass the number of Americans killed in World War II.

“We need to follow the science and the 400,000th death is shameful,” said Cliff Daniels, chief strategy officer for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, near Los Angeles. With its morgue full, the hospital has parked a refrigerated truck outside to hold the bodies of COVID-19 victims until funeral homes can retrieve them.

“It’s so incredibly, unimaginably sad that so many people have died that could have been avoided,” he said.

The U.S. accounts for nearly 1 of every 5 virus deaths reported worldwide, far more than any other country despite its great wealth and medical resources.

The White House defended the administration this week.

Read the full story here.

Without resupply, New York will have to close vaccine sites Thursday

New York City will have to close vaccination sites after Thursday if it doesn’t get a major resupply, Mayor Bill de Blasio, D, said.

The city wants to vaccinate 300,000 people this week but has only about 92,000 doses, de Blasio said in a Tuesday briefing. More than 450,000 doses have been in administered in New York.

The mayor said official tallies that show more ample supplies are flawed, and that in fact a crisis impends.

“At this rate, we will run out on Thursday and hit zero on Friday,” de Blasio said. “We will not be able to give shots at a lot of our sites. We won’t get shots until next week.”

State_of_State-New_York_45511

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address virtually from The War Room at the state Capitol, Monday, Jan. 11, in Albany, N.Y. AP Photo/Hans Pennink, Pool

De Blasio joins a chorus of local and state officials calling on the federal government to disburse more doses. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to speed up the vaccine rollout and inoculate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, said Monday he asked Pfizer Inc. whether the state could buy vaccines directly from the company because the U.S. government has failed to increase supply.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended expanding eligibility to more than 7 million New Yorkers from 5 million “practically overnight,” Cuomo said Monday in a letter to Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla. At the same time, the CDC hasn’t increased — and in some cases reduced — the supply to states. New York will get 250,000 doses this week, 50,000 fewer than last week. At that rate, inoculating those eligible would take seven months, Cuomo said.

Pfizer is supplying the federal government with 200 million doses. The company said it hasn’t considered direct sales to state governments and would need approval from the federal government to do so.

Meanwhile, the virus rages on. New York City had 3,449 hospitalized covid-19 patients Sunday, the highest level since mid-May, according to state data. The seven-day average of newly reported covid-19 cases fell for the 10th consecutive day, to 5,009 cases, down from a peak of 6,372 on Jan. 8. The rate of positive test results dropped to 8.23%, the lowest since Dec. 27. That level is still above the public-health safety threshold of 5%.

New York City is bringing on massive vaccination sites that will be operating around the clock, seven days a week at Citi Field in Queens and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. “Capacity is growing every day, but it won’t work without the vaccine,” de Blasio said.

The warnings about dwindling supplies stand in contrast to city data that says about half of New York City’s stock remains unused. New York has administered 455,737 out of 876,550 doses delivered, according to its immunization registry. In television appearances over the weekend, de Blasio attributed the discrepancy to reporting delays and a lag in administering doses reserved for nursing home facilities by a program run by the federal government.

New York state data, which strips out shots reserved for nursing homes, said New York City has administered 69% of the doses it’s received.

Swiss start mass testing after virus variant found in St. Moritz

BERLIN — Swiss authorities have started mass testing residents and visitors in St. Moritz after a new variant of the coronavirus was detected in the upscale skiing resort.

People were asked to register online and come in for free tests to a local gym and a beverage store on Tuesday, after two luxury hotels were put under quarantine Monday. All schools, kindergartens and skiing schools were closed.

Officials said at least two dozen cases were detected in the two hotels, which local media identified as the Palace and the Kempinski hotel.

The Kempinski said late Monday that health authorities had confirmed cases of the mutated coronavirus among the hotel’s employees.

“Local health officials have ordered that all guests and staff at the hotel should be quarantined to minimize exposure to the public,” a spokeswoman for Kempinski told The Associated Press. “The hotel is strictly following the advice of the local health authorities and World Health Organization guidelines.”

All people in St. Moritz who were 5 and older were asked to participate in the test, which was voluntary. Swiss media reported that the variant detected in St. Moritz was first found in South Africa.

Biden administration has no plans to lift travel restrictions

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming White House press secretary says his administration does not intend to lift coronavirus travel restrictions for Europe, the U.K., Ireland and Brazil.

The message from Jen Psaki came Monday evening after the White House said President Donald Trump had lifted the restrictions for those countries, effective Jan. 26.

Psaki then tweeted: “On the advice of our medical team, the administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.”

She added, “In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Trump imposed the travel restrictions early in the pandemic to slow the spread of the coronavirus to the U.S. They prevented most people without American citizenship or residency from traveling to the U.S. from the affected regions.

Crews in Portugal collect votes from quarantined residents

LISBON, Portugal — Local councils in Portugal are sending out teams to gather votes from people in home quarantine and from residents of nursing homes ahead of a presidential election on Sunday.

Authorities have taken exceptional measures to ensure voting is possible during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the fact the country is in lockdown.

For 48 hours beginning Tuesday, crews wearing protective clothing went to collect the votes of people who had registered for the service. However, fewer than 13,000 people — about 15% of those eligible — signed up for the service, officials said. Some voters complained that they were given little notice of the service.

On Sunday, 12,000 polling stations will be open, 2,000 more than usual, to help avoid large gatherings. Early voting last Sunday drew a record turnout.

Norway pledges to donate vaccines

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway has pledged to help fight the global pandemic by donating vaccines to low-income countries as soon as the vaccines are approved, its foreign aid minister said Tuesday.

“Ensuring COVID-19 vaccines reach people in the world’s poorest countries isn’t just about being charitable or acting on a moral imperative. It’s also in the best interest of every country to do so,” Dag-Inge Ulstein, the Norwegian minister for International Development, told The Associated Press.

“If the virus is circulating in one country, the rest of the world remains at risk.”

Ulstein gave no timeframe or figures for vaccine quantities but said the roll-out will take place “in parallel to the current vaccination of the Norwegian population.”

Norway’s move came a day after WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had lambasted drugmakers’ profits and vaccine inequalities around the world.

WHO panel criticizes China’s early efforts

GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner.

In a report issued Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities to apply basic public health measures at the earliest opportunity” and that Chinese authorities could have applied their efforts “more forcefully” in January shortly after the coronavirus began sickening clusters of people.

“The reality is that only a minority of countries took full advantage of the information available to them to respond to the evidence of an emerging pandemic,” the panel said.

The experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency sooner. The U.N. health agency convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. At the time, WHO said its expert committee was divided on whether a global emergency should be declared.

“One more question is whether it would have helped if WHO used the word pandemic earlier than it did,” the panel said.

WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic until March 11, weeks after the virus had begun causing explosive outbreaks in numerous continents.

Cases in Belgium plateau as vaccines begin

BRUSSELS — The head of Belgium’s COVID-19 vaccination task force said more than 100,000 people have gotten a vaccine shot so far.

Speaking during a press conference Tuesday, Dirk Ramaekers said the figure equates to about 35% of the first group prioritized by Belgian health authorities, which includes nursing home residents and staff, as well as hospital staff and other frontline workers.

Belgium health authorities are using shots manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two vaccines that have been approved so far in the European Union. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots to be fully effective.

The second phase of the vaccination campaign is expected to start in March and will involve people over 65 years old and high-risk patients, starting with the eldest and working towards the youngest.

Infections numbers have reached a plateau in Belgium since the end of November, with new daily cases between 2,000 and 3,000. According to virologist Yves van Laethem, new infections among people over 80 have dropped 20%.

Sri Lanka will reopen to tourists Thursday

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities say they will fully reopen the country for tourists beginning Thursday, in a bid to revive the island nation’s lucrative tourism industry that has been badly hit by the pandemic.

Authorities say the country’s two international airports will be fully operational from Thursday.

The Indian ocean island nation closed the country and the two airports for tourists in March when the first wave of the COVID-19 surfaced.

Under the new program, tourists must be tested at home within 72 hours of their flight. They are then tested when they arrive at their hotel and again seven days later. They will be allowed to travel in 14 tourism zones in a “travel bubble,” without mixing with the local population. About 180 hotels have been earmarked to provide accommodation for the tourists.

The government launched a one-month pilot project on Dec. 26 to bring down tourists and under that, 1500 tourists from Ukraine visited Sri Lanka in a “travel bubble.”

U.K.’s Eurostar trying to survive pandemic, Brexit

PARIS — The head of France’s state rail company has sounded the alarm over the future of the Eurostar train service, which connects the U.K. with continental Europe and has been hurt badly by the halt to travel during the pandemic as well as Brexit.

Jean-Pierre Farandou, the CEO of SNCF, which owns 55% of Eurostar, told France Inter radio on Tuesday that “the situation is very critical for Eurostar.”

Passenger numbers on the cross-Channel train service – which reaches U.K., France, Belgium and Holland – have been down 95% since March and are currently believed to be less than 1% of pre-pandemic levels.

It comes days after U.K. business leaders called for a British government rescue of the Channel Tunnel rail operator as border closures designed to stop a contagious virus variant threatened to push the service toward the brink of collapse.

Farandou noted that “today, there is one round trip that runs between London and Paris, and one other that runs between London and Brussels-Amsterdam. And these trains are 10% full.”

Merkel plans meeting on coronavirus mutations

GERMANY — Chancellor Angela Merkel is holding a virtual meeting Tuesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states to discuss the country’s pandemic measures amid concerns that new mutations of the coronavirus could trigger a fresh surge in cases.

The country’s infection rate has stabilized in recent days, indicating that existing restrictions may have been effective in bringing down the numbers. On Tuesday, the country’s disease control center reported 11,369 new virus infections and 891 new deaths, for an overall death toll of 47,622.

The government tightened the country’s lockdown in early January until the end of this month. However, surging infections in Britain and Ireland, said to be caused by a more contagious virus variant, have experts worried that the mutation could also spread quickly in Germany if measures are not extended or even toughened. .

While restaurants, most stores and schools have already been closed and those shutdowns are likely to be extended, there’s also talk about possible nightly curfews, an obligation to wear the more effective FFP2 or KN95 masks on public transportation, and a push to get more people to work at home.

Nearly 850,000 health care workers in Turkey have received 1st dose

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has started vaccinating nursing home residents and their caregivers, a week after it rolled out its inoculation program.

People above the age of 90 are also expected to begin being vaccinated as of Tuesday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter.

Turkey rolled out its vaccination program on Jan. 14, a day after the country approved the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech company for emergency use. Close to 850,000 health care workers have received the first of two doses of the vaccine.

Turkey has so far received 3 million doses of the vaccine and it was not clear when more doses would arrive. Officials have said Turkey reached agreement to receive 50 million doses.

Meanwhile, Turkey lifted its decision to suspend leaves for health care workers as well as to temporarily ban resignations and early retirements which it had imposed in October amid a surge of COVID-19 cases which overwhelmed its health system.

The number of daily cases have been dropping steadily from record highs of around 30,000 in November to around 6,000 on Monday. Turkey has recorded nearly 25,000 COVID-19 deaths and 2.4 million infections.

British health secretary in quarantine after close contact alert

LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock is quarantining himself after receiving an alert from the country’s test and trace app saying that he has recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

In a video posted on Twitter, Hancock said he has been pinged by the National Health Service’s coronavirus app and that he will be self-isolating at home until Sunday.

Hancock, who contracted the virus last spring, says self-isolation is “perhaps the most important part” of all the social distancing measures in place to break chains of transmission.

Britain is facing an acute resurgence of the coronavirus that has seen lockdown measures reimposed across the country. The Office for National Statistics said separately that one in eight people in England have had the virus, the highest rate among the four U.K. nations. Britain has seen over 90,000 confirmed deaths, the most in Europe.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: