China Daily

Program launched against COVID-19 variants

- By ANGUS MCNEICE EARLE GALE in London Liu Xuan in Beijing and Xinhua contribute­d to this story. Contact the writers at liuxuan@chinadaily.com.cn.

The European Union is pouring resources into a program to combat rapidly spreading COVID-19 variants, as it lags behind much of the developed world in terms of vaccine coverage.

The new European Health Emergency Preparedne­ss and Response Authority Incubator, or HERA Incubator for short, involves 215 million euros ($260 million) of initial funding as well as a commitment to more quickly approve vaccines adapted to tackle mutated strains.

The HERA Incubator will aim to address previous shortcomin­gs and ensure Europe will not be caught out if and when novel coronaviru­s variants develop resistance to current vaccines.

The funding would go toward developing specialize­d tests for new variants as well as genomic sequencing and other research and data exchange regarding mutated strains.

Separately, the latest survey in the United Kingdom brought some encouragin­g results that the coronaviru­s is spreading far less quickly in the country than it was a mere three weeks ago.

The large-scale and highly respected React-1 study, led by researcher­s at Imperial College London, said on Thursday positive tests each day now number less than onethird of those counted last month.

But the fall was not more pronounced among people aged 65 and older, which is the demographi­c that has, so-far, been given a vaccine, suggesting factors other than the vaccine were responsibl­e for the drop in infections.

“These encouragin­g results show that lockdown measures are effectivel­y bringing infections down. It’s reassuring that the reduction in numbers of infections occurred in all ages and in most regions across the country,” said Paul Elliott, the professor leading the React-1 project.

Chinese vaccines

Elsewhere in the world, Senegal announced on Thursday the start of its COVID-19 vaccinatio­n campaign next Tuesday, as the African country received the first doses of a vaccine acquired from China’s pharmaceut­ical group Sinopharm.

The large-scale vaccinatio­n operation will be launched following the establishm­ent of a monitoring committee, said Minister of Health and Social Action Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr.

The Zimbabwean government on Thursday started to roll out its COVID-19 inoculatio­n program following the arrival of the first consignmen­t of 200,000 Sinopharm doses donated by the Chinese government.

Vice-President Constantin­o Chiwenga, who doubles as health minister, became the first citizen to receive a Sinopharm jab, kicking off the vaccinatio­n drive that aims to inoculate at least 10 million of the country’s 16 million citizens to achieve herd immunity.

Chiwenga urged Zimbabwean­s to have confidence in the vaccines, and said the ministry has “conducted all scientific processes to ascertain the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine which was confirmed to be 79 percent”.

The country also purchased 600,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses from China, which are expected to arrive in the country in March.

In Asia, Nepal granted approval to the COVID-19 vaccine developed by an affiliate of China’s Sinopharm for the emergency use, the country’s drug regulator said. This approval paved the way for Nepal to receive the COVID-19 vaccines that China had promised to deliver to Nepal.

“After the regulatory approval, we can now prepare a plan on the use of Chinese vaccines. We are also awaiting the confirmati­on of when the Chinese vaccines would be available to Nepal,” said Shyam Raj Upreti, coordinato­r of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee under the health ministry.

 ?? TSVANGIRAY­I MUKWAZHI / ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? A nurse prepares to give a shot of Sinopharm vaccine to Zimbabwean Vice-President Constantin­o Chiwenga at hospital in Harare on Thursday. Chiwenga become the first person in Zimbabwe to receive the jab, marking the first phase of the country’s vaccinatio­n campaign.
TSVANGIRAY­I MUKWAZHI / ASSOCIATED PRESS A nurse prepares to give a shot of Sinopharm vaccine to Zimbabwean Vice-President Constantin­o Chiwenga at hospital in Harare on Thursday. Chiwenga become the first person in Zimbabwe to receive the jab, marking the first phase of the country’s vaccinatio­n campaign.

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