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A vaccine volunteer receives an injection at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto
Future mutations of the coronavirus might mandate annual inoculationsImage: Siphiwe Sibeko/AP Photo/picture alliance
Politics

Coronavirus: J&J boss says annual vaccine may be needed

February 10, 2021

Alex Gorsky said mutations of the virus may force people to get inoculated every year. Meanwhile, Eli Lilly's combination antibody therapy has been granted emergency use authorization in the US. Follow DW for the latest.

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The chief executive of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) told news channel CNBC on Tuesday that people may have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 annually for several years. "Unfortunately, as the virus spreads it can also mutate," said Alex Gorsky.

"Every time it mutates, it's almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine," he said.

J&J has currently approached the US health regulator to authorize its single dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. Gorsky said that the company is working on making a two-dose vaccine, whose clinical trial data will be available in the second half of 2021.

Gorsky also told CNBC that the drugmaker was confident about delivering 100 million doses of its one-dose vaccine to the US by June.

Here's a rundown of some of the other most notable pandemic-related stories around the world at present. 

Americas

Eli Lilly said that its combination antibody therapy for COVID-19 has been granted emergency use authorization by the US's regulatory authority. The drugmaker said that the therapy would be available for use immediately for use in patients aged above 12 years who are at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19.

According to data from a late-stage trial, the combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, cuts the risk of hospitalization and death in patients by 70%.

California is set to pass New York as the state with the most coronavirus deaths in the US. The state reported 44,495 deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, just short of New York's tally at 44,693.

The state's huge population is being cited as one of the reasons for the high death toll.

Venezuela is set to receive the first 100,000 doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V next week, President Nicolas Maduro has said. Venezuela has ordered 10 million doses of the shot. 

Venezuela will receive its first doses of Sputnik V next week
Venezuela will receive its first doses of Sputnik V next weekImage: Majid Asgaripour/WANA/REUTERS

Peru has started its vaccination campaign. The country rolled out 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine developed by China. 

The first doses were administered in the ICU unit of a hospital in Lima. Peru's president, Francisco Sagasti, also received the vaccine and urged everyone to get vaccinated. According to polls, about 48% of Peruvians refuse to get vaccinated, citing side effects.

Europe

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced that the greater Athens area would be placed in another hard lockdown from Thursday for two weeks. Shops and schools in the capital will close again after being allowed to open in January.

German officials are considering lifting some measures in the coming weeks, but the shutdown will continue for now, DW has learned. Federal and state representatives are set to announce their decision on Wednesday.

"Considering the virus mutations, the steps to lift the restrictions must come carefully and gradually in order to avoid risking the successful curbing of infections," Germany's top officials are expected to say, according to a draft statement obtained by DW.

The document foresees the country continuing its shutdown until March.

The number of new daily coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 8,072 according to the data released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The number of new cases was significantly higher compared to Tuesday's figures, which saw over 3,300 new cases. Over 800 new fatalities were reported on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll up to 62,969.

Liverpool FC coach Jürgen Klopp's mother died from COVID-19 last month, according to German newspaper Schwarzwälder Bote.

"She meant everything to me, a mother in the real sense of the world," Klopp told the newspaper.

Klopp said he could not return to his native Germany for the funeral due to the tough restrictions on travelers from the UK, but said, "once conditions allow it, we will hold a wonderful memorial service."

Africa

South Africa will restart its coronavirus vaccination campaign with Johnson & Johnson doses. The country's health minister Zweli Mkhize said the country will begin administering the unapproved Johnson & Johnson vaccines to its front-line health workers from next week.

The Johnson & Johnson jabs have been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant, and the approval process for its use is under way Mkhize told a press briefing. The African country has been grappling with the new variant of the virus. Its vaccination campaign faced a setback when the AstraZaneca vaccine was found to be less effective against the new variant.

Asia

In South Korea, a spaniel in Seoul became the first pet to have been tested for the coronavirus under the city's free pet testing program. City officials said the dog has to be quarantined at home for 14 days, but test results are pending. South Korea's capital is offering free coronavirus testing for pets who have been exposed to humans infected with the virus.

Cambodia launched its vaccination drive against the coronavirus on Wednesday. The country is administering the Sinopharm vaccine developed by China. The sons of Cambodia's prime minister and government ministers were among the first recipients.

Japan's prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Wednesday that the country was beginning COVID-19 vaccinations from next week. Suga made the announcement at a meeting with government officials.

Malaysian glove maker, Supermax Corp has temporarily halted work at its factory in Klang, close to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, after an outbreak of COVID-19 among workers. The company, Malaysia's third largest glove maker, has halted work from Wednesday to Friday.

"The company has recorded its first cases of COVID-19 infection, suspected to have come from external transporters based on our preliminary findings," said Supermax.

New Zealand is administering its first vaccines to quarantine personnel, front line health workers and airline staff, the country's COVID-19 response minister said on Wednesday. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was formally approved by the government the same day.

New Zealand is set to receive 1.5 million vaccine doses from Pfizer. New Zealand's health regulator is also in talks with AstraZeneca, Janssen and Novavax regarding a potential approval of their vaccines.

Moderna has inked supply agreements for its coronavirus vaccine with Taiwan and Colombia. The US drugmaker will deliver 5 million and 10 million doses, respectively, to the two countries.

Moderna said that it would pursue approvals for its vaccine in the two countries and start delivery in mid-2021.

Taiwan's government is set to start vaccinations next month. The country is also developing vaccines locally.

India: Education cut short

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New COVID cases and deaths have fallen sharply in India in the past few weeks, which has led some officials to suggest that the country has achieved herd immunity. But how credible are these claims?

As President John Magufuli downplays the severity of the coronavirus, Tanzanians are waking up to the reality that the virus is spreading. Health experts now fear Tanzania's attitude could endanger the rest of Africa.

In Germany, the first people to be vaccinated are the elderly living in care facilities, but people with severe disabilities who do not live in group homes have been forced to wait. A new regulation might change that. 

am/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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