Russia's Mass Vaccination, Vaccine Approval, CDC Guidelines: COVID-19 Global Highlights

Medscape, Univadis, & MediQuality Staff

December 04, 2020

These are the global coronavirus stories you need to know about this week.

The UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use. The vaccine is still being assessed by the US FDA and European Medicines Agency. Although the UK is still under Brexit transitional arrangements until the end of the year, EU law allows temporary authorisation by regulators in individual countries based on public health needs.

New South Wales, Australia has announced the easing of several COVID-19 restrictions starting on December 7, including removal of maximum capacity rules on weddings, funerals, and hospitality venues, subject to ensuring there's only one person for every 2 square metres. 

The Serum Institute of India has filed a defamation suit against a volunteer who participated in its Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine candidate trial. The participant had earlier sent a legal notice alleging that the vaccine triggered an adverse reaction resulting in severe neurological impairment. The institute said the complications had no correlation with the vaccine trial and called the allegations "malicious" and "misconceived". The Drug Controller General of India and the institutional ethics committee are investigating.

Indonesia set a new daily record of COVID-19 infections, with 6267 cases reported on November 30. 

Belgium will start vaccinating people against COVID-19 on 5 January if the EU gives the green light for the vaccine, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Wednesday. Also, surgeons at the Belgian university hospital in Louvain performed the first lung transplant from organs from a donor who had had a moderate form of COVID-19.

The Spanish Minister of Health announced Christmas COVID-19 measures to help avoid a third wave before vaccination begins in January. Gatherings will be limited to 10 people on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1, with an extended curfew on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. There are also travel restrictions in place. Infections are in decline and now stand at 265 cases per 100,000 people.

In Italy the R number was 1.08 at a national level but with regional differences, from 1.2 in Tuscany to 0.71 in Sardinia. The Ministry of Health announced the key points of a national vaccination plan. Italy has ordered 202,573,000 doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca, Johnson&Johnson, Sanofi, Pfizer, CureVac and Moderna. Once vaccines are approved, healthcare workers will be vaccinated during the first quarter of 2021, followed by over 80s, and people with comorbidities. Younger people won't be vaccinated before September next year.

In France, former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing died at the age of 94 after testing positive for COVID-19. Overall, the situation continues to improve in France and lockdown is due to be lifted on December 15. This week, the country's vaccine strategy was updated. From the end of December/beginning of January, there will be five stages in priority order. In addition, rapid diagnostic tests are also being used.

In Germany, COVID-19 mortality between mid-February and mid-September is estimated at 11.3 per 100,000 people, and the excess mortality for any cause is estimated at about 10.0 per 100,000.

As the nationwide coronavirus surge continues in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced two shorter quarantine options: 10 days or 7 days for people exposed to COVID-19. Citing new evidence and an "acceptable risk" of transmission, the agency hopes reducing the 14-day quarantine will increase overall compliance. Also, the CDC's advisory committee on vaccines released its prioritisation plan with healthcare workers and older adults in long-term care homes at the top of the list.

The CDC also issued new guidance allowing essential workers exposed to SARS-CoV-2 to keep working as a "last resort and only in limited circumstances". The recommendations apply to all essential workers, not just those in healthcare.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a voluntary national mass Sputnik V vaccination programme beginning next week. Priority is being given to doctors and teachers.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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