Health News Roundup: What you need to know about the coronavirus right now; New COVID strain detected in Israel and more

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Austria in talks to buy a million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Austria is in talks with Russia to buy a million doses of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said on Tuesday. Conservative leader Kurz is under fire from opposition parties because his government did not buy as many coronavirus vaccines as it could have under the European Union’s collective purchasing scheme.

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now: Asian countries scramble for vaccine supplies

Exclusive: India extends shelf life of AstraZeneca vaccine – document, source

India’s drug regulator has allowed the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to be used for up to nine months from its manufacture date, as opposed to the prescribed six months, according to a document reviewed by Reuters and a source. The approval, given to a licensed version of the drug made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and exported to dozens of countries, could help health authorities minimise vaccine wastage and better plan their inoculation programmes.

EU says AstraZeneca under no UK obligation that would prevent EU vaccine supply

AstraZeneca has told the European Union that it has no legal obligations to Britain or other buyers that would prevent the full supply of COVID-19 doses under its contract with the EU, a European Commission spokeswoman said on Tuesday. Her comments at a news conference contradict statements made by British Health Minister Matt Hancock, who has repeatedly said the Anglo-Swedish firm has an exclusive deal with Britain that would justify prioritisation of supplies to the United Kingdom.

Germany’s vaccine regulator reports 31 cases of blood disorder after AstraZeneca shot

Germany’s vaccine regulator said on Tuesday it has recorded 31 cases of a rare blood clot in the brain, nine of which resulted in deaths, after people received a COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca. The Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) said it has now registered 31 cases of clots in the cerebral veins – known as sinus vein thrombosis, or CSVT – and that in 19 of these there was a deficiency of blood platelets or thrombocytepenia.

WHO panel to issue latest findings on COVID-19, Ebola vaccines on Wednesday: spokesman

A World Health Organization’s advisory panel will present its latest findings on vaccines against COVID-19, Ebola, polio and other infectious diseases on Wednesday, a spokesman said. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a Geneva news briefing on Tuesday that its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which met last week, would issue their findings and policy recommendations on Wednesday at 1000gmt.

Indian COVID-19 situation turning from ‘bad to worse’: government official

India’s COVID-19 situation is turning from “bad to worse,” a senior government official said on Tuesday, as infections surge across several states. “Remember if the cases are more, they will eventually overwhelm the system”, senior health official Vinod Kumar Paul told a news conference.

BioNTech-Pfizer raise 2021 vaccine output goal to 2.5 billion doses

BioNTech said on Tuesday that it and partner Pfizer would increase the manufacturing capacity of their COVID-19 vaccine to 2.5 billion doses by the end of 2021, unveiling for the first time projected sales of close to 10 billion euros ($11.73 billion) from the product this year. Pfizer previously said the two partners would likely produce between 2.3 billion and 2.4 billion doses this year.

New COVID strain detected in Israel; Pfizer vaccine purchase bid delayed

A new coronavirus strain has been identified in Israel, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, used primarily in a swift nationwide inoculation drive, appeared to be effective against it. Separately, a bid by the Israeli government to secure 36 million more Pfizer/BioNTech doses for use as booster shots or for children once they are eligible to hit a snag this week over political infighting.

France targeting up to 2 million COVID-19 vaccine jabs this week: official

France is targeting between 1.9 million and 2 million COVID-19 vaccine injections this week, up from 1.8 million last week, said a health ministry official on Tuesday. The official added that the resumption in France of COVID-19 vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s shot was meeting expectations, with 600,000 doses used last week.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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