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Coronavirus highlights, Dec 18: India’s caseload crosses one crore-mark; Mike Pence gets Pfizer vaccine shot

Here are the top Covid-19 developments that you need to know today.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 18, 2020 10:29:17 pm
india coronavirus cases, india covid news, covid cases india, coronavirus daily update, most affected country covid-19Covid 19 testing from local train commuters at Juhinagar Railway station (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

The total number of people so far infected by the novel coronavirus in India crossed the one crore-mark, numbers coming in from states on Friday evening show. In the United States, Vice President Mike Pence received a shot of the Pfizer vaccine, becoming the highest profile world leader to be vaccinated for the novel coronavirus.

Here are the top Covid-19 developments that you need to know today

Vaccination for Covid will be voluntary: Health ministry

Getting vaccinated for Covid-19 will be voluntary, the Union Health Ministry has said while underlining that the vaccine introduced in India will be as effective as any vaccine developed by other countries.

The ministry further stated that it was advisable to receive a complete schedule of the anti-coronavirus vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with Covid-19 as this will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease. It also said that protective level of antibodies generally develop two weeks after receiving the second dose.

“Vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary. However, it is advisable to receive the complete schedule of the vaccine for protecting one-self against this disease and also to limit the spread of this disease to the close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers,” the ministry said.

Pence, wife Karen, get Covid-19 vaccine injections

Pence became the highest profile world leader to be vaccinated for the coronavirus on live television. His wife Karen and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also received the vaccine shots. President Donald Trump’s administration helped deliver vaccinations against the coronavirus earlier than even some in his administration thought possible, launching Operation Warp Speed–the government campaign to help swiftly develop and distribute vaccines– this spring with great fanfare in the White House Rose Garden. But Trump hasn’t been inoculated himself.

Pence, meanwhile, has taken center stage, touring a vaccine production facility this week and receiving a dose himself on live television Friday morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days.

Netherlands aims to begin Pfizer-BioNTech shots by Jan 8

The Dutch health minister said coronavirus vaccinations using the Pfizer-BioNTech shots will start by January 8 if the European Union’s medicines agency approves it for use next week. Hugo de Jonge said that health authorities have developed a plan he described as “careful, safe and responsible.”

Coronavirus vaccine, UK covid vaccine, National Health Service, NHS, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Coronavirus pandemic, Pfizer/BioNTech, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, MHRA, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Indian Express News A syringe contains a dose of a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine sits in a container (AP)

The first vaccines will be given to staff at nursing homes and other health care professionals. In neighbouring country Germany, authorities said Wednesday that vaccinations would start in nursing homes on December 27. (AP)

FDA panel endorses Moderna’s vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna has moved closer to authorization, a significant step that would expand the reach of the nation’s vaccination campaign to rural areas and many more hospitals.

Moderna would be the second company allowed to begin inoculating the public, giving millions more Americans access to the desperately needed vaccine. The first, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, received authorization last week.

The Moderna vaccine can be distributed more widely because it can be stored at normal freezer temperatures and, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, does not require ultracold storage. It also comes in much smaller batches, making it easier for hospitals in less populated areas to use quickly. Read full story here

Karnataka bans public parties on new year; no festive cheer in Pune restaurants 

In light of Covid-19, the Karnataka government has banned New Year celebrations in clubs, pubs and restaurants. The ban will be in place for four days from December 30 in order to minimise the spread of the disease. However, there are no restrictions on these establishments carrying out normal operations.

Healthcare professionals check temperature for signs of novel coronavirus

Meanwhile in Pune, the restaurant sector is finding itself struggling during the time of Christmas and New Year eve. The last fortnight of the year brings the restaurants a huge chunk of their annual revenues, but city outlets have been reporting lukewarm response from their customers due to continuing restrictions on seating capacities and operation timings.

Though the New Year is less than two weeks away, there is still no clarity whether the government would allow New Year’s eve parties in restaurants and bars.

SC directs states to carry out fire safety audit of dedicated Covid-19 hospitals

The Supreme Court on Friday directed all the states to carry out fire safety audit of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals across the country to prevent fire incidents in medical institutions. The apex court also directed dedicated COVID-19 hospitals to take a no objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department within four weeks and said that failure to do so will invite punitive action.

Terming it as a “world war” against COVID-19, the apex court said that due to the “unprecedented pandemic” everybody in the world is suffering one way or the other.

Explained today: Implications of the mutated coronavirus in the UK

A mutated variant of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 has been associated with recent infections in England. The question being raised is whether the mutation could affect people’s response to vaccines — and scientists say this is unlikely. The virus has undergone several mutations since it first infected humans, which scientists say is neither unexpected nor a cause for panic. We explain it here

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