European officials OK Moderna vaccine for emergency use

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) today cleared Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, clearing the way for a second vaccine to be used in much of Europe, where the more transmissible B117 variant virus appears to be spreading quickly.

In a statement today, the EMA said the vaccine is authorized for use in adults and provides another tool for battling the pandemic.

Nations track B117 variants amid surge in Europe

In Ireland, hospitalizations have now topped the country's first peak, according to CNN. Tony Holohan, MBBS, MPH, chief medical officer of Ireland's health department, today warned that the country is in a serious phase of its surge and there is evidence of an increasing presence of the UK variant.

"All counties have an upward trajectory of the disease," he said in a statement. "There is concerning escalation of admissions to hospital and ICU [intensive care units]. We are very likely to see escalating mortality and ICU admissions in the coming days and weeks."

In the Netherlands, 50 B117 variant cases have been found so far, including 30 linked to an outbreak at a primary school near Rotterdam, according to a Dutch media report.

In Europe's growing third surge in cases, more countries reported record single-day highs, including Portugal and the Czech Republic.

Vaccine coverage as economic growth factor

In a new report yesterday, the World Bank said it expects that the global economy will grow 4% in 2021 if the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out widely this year. It added, however, that recovery will be more subdued unless policymakers take decisive steps to battle the pandemic and implement reforms that enhance investments.

The global economy is expanding again after a 4.3% contraction in 2020 that was less severe than originally projected, but was accompanied by a heavy toll of illnesses and deaths and pushed millions into poverty.

A scenario of continued infection rise and delayed vaccination rollout could limit global economic growth this year to 1.6%, the World Bank said.

In other global headlines:

  • China is stepping up measures, such as imposing travel restrictions and banning gatherings, in Hebei province to battle an outbreak, which grew by 20 cases today, according to Reuters. The main hot spot of its capital Shijiazhuang, home to 11 million people. Health officials are also conducting mass testing.

  • Japan today reported another single-day record in cases, according to Reuters. Health officials are expected to announce a state of emergency tomorrow.

  • Israel is tightening up its lockdown owing to a sharp spike in cases. The tougher measures take effect at midnight tomorrow and last 2 weeks.

  • The global total today approached 87 million cases and is now at 86,948,012 cases with 1,877,219 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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