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COVID-19

90% of India’s adult population fully vaccinated

So far, more than 3.69 crore adolescents have also been administered with the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, said the ministry…reports Asian Lite News

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday informed that 90 per cent of India’s adult population has been fully vaccinated with both vaccine doses against Covid-19.

Calling the occasion an extraordinary feat, he tweeted, “What an extraordinary feat! With PM @NarendraModi Ji’s mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Prayas, India achieves complete vaccination of 90 per cent of its adult population. Way to go!
We will win the battle against the pandemic together!”

In the age group of 18-44 years, a total of 55,83,57,087 first doses and 50,22,61,478 second doses have been administered so far. The number of precaution doses administered in this group stands at 32,40,839, as per the health ministry report.

India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage has exceeded 197.98 crore (1,97,98,21,197) as per provisional reports till 7 a.m. on Monday. This has been achieved through 2,58,55,578 sessions.

So far, more than 3.69 crore adolescents have also been administered with the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, said the ministry.

Meanwhile, India reported 13,086 Covid cases in past 24 hours against previous day’s 16,135 count, Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

In the same period, 19 fatalities took the nationwide death toll to 5,25,242.

Meanwhile, the active caseload has also risen to 1,14,475 cases, accounting for 0.26 per cent total positive cases.

The recovery of 12,456 patients in the last 24 hours took the cumulative tally to 4,28,91,933. Consequently, India’s recovery rate stands at 98.53 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Daily Positivity rate has also declined to 2.90 per cent, while the Weekly Positivity Rate currently stands at 3.81 per cent.

Also in the same period, a total of 4,51,312 tests were conducted across the country, increasing the overall tally to over 86.44 crore.

Meanwhile, about 10 states in India have detected a new sub-variant of Omicron BA.2.75, which may be “alarming” in nature, according to an Israeli expert on Sunday.

However, the Indian Health Ministry is yet to officially confirm the detection of the sub-variant in the country.

In a series of Tweets, Dr. Shay Fleishon, with the Central Virology Laboratory at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, said that 85 sequences from eight countries have been uploaded so far on Nextstrain, an open-source platform of genomic data.

This included 69 from India: Delhi (1), Haryana (6), Himachal Pradesh (3), Jammu (1), Karnataka (10), Madhya Pradesh (5), Maharashtra (27), Telangana (2), Uttar Pradesh (1), and West Bengal (13).

Besides India, the strain has also been reported by seven other countries: Japan (1), Germany (2), the UK (6), Canada (2), the US (2), Australia (1), and New Zealand (2), according to the Nextstrain data.

“No transmission could be tracked based on sequences outside India yet,” Fleishon wrote on Twitter.

While he said it is “too soon to tell” whether BA.2.75 will be the next dominant variant, he noted that the sub-variant may be “alarming because it may imply a trend to come”.

Fleishon explained that in recent months, there has been a trend of second generation variants based on Omicron sub-lineages, namely BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5.

This was based on Omicron lineages with mutations in the S1 section of the spike protein and specifically in the part of the spike protein which the virus uses to connect to and gain entry into cells.

However, the rise seen in these sub-variants has been “at a level not seen in second-generation variants from other variants of concerns”.

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Africa News COVID-19 News

Kenya to destroy 840k expired Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses

Kenya will destroy 840,000 Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses following their expiry on February 28, a top official at the Health Ministry said…reports Asian Lite News

The vaccines are part of the 2.2 million doses Kenya received as a donation through the COVAX facility in January and had been distributed across the country, Xinhua news agency quoted Mutahi Kagwe, the cabinet secretary for the Ministry, as saying here.

Kagwe blamed the expiry on complacency among Kenyans and growing vaccine hesitancy.

“Astrazeneca has particularly had unique challenges. There has been complacency by Kenyans in taking up the jab following reduction in positivity rate and Covid-19 admissions. The daily vaccination rate has reduced from 252,000 recorded in early February to 30,000-40,000 daily.”

He further noted that preference of certain types of vaccines by Kenyans has led to decreased administration of Astrazeneca jabs.

“We continue to witness vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation and rumours especially around fertility issues.”

Going forward, he said, Kenya will only receive vaccine donations of doses whose shelf-life is at least four months from the day they are received.

ALSO READ: South Africa relaxes Covid lockdown regulations

Across Africa, expiry of vaccines has also been reported in Uganda, Malawi, Senegal and Nigeria.

Kenya has so far received some 27 million vaccine doses of Astrazeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson brands and administered 17.4 million of them, according to Kagwe.

Eight million people have been fully vaccinated.

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-Top News India News

Covid vaccines not mandatory, SC told


The top court was informed that the state government derived the power to impose the vaccine mandate from the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005…reports Asian Lite News

The central government has clarified in the Supreme Court that it has not made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory and has only said that the vaccination should be 100 per cent, media reported.

The clarification from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, came after Additional Advocate General for Tamil Nadu Amit Anand Tiwari told a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai that the union government had issued a mandate to us that 100 per cent people should be vaccinated.

“Milords one clarification… that the State of Tamil Nadu said they made it mandatory as the Centre said 100 per cent vaccination. This is not a mandate. The Centre has not issued any mandate, the stand of centre is that it should be 100 per cent but it is not a mandate,” Mehta told the top court which reserved its order on the plea seeking directions for disclosure of data on clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines and post-jab cases.

Meanwhile, three state governments – Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh – on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that vaccine mandates to avail public transport and access public places were necessary in public interest.

Advocate Rahul Chitnis, representing the Maharashtra government, submitted before a bench, headed by Justices L. Nageswara Rao and comprising Justice B.R. Gavai that the vaccine mandate is in public interest and pointed out that a large number of people use public transport in Mumbai.

“People are packed like sardines on the trains. In a train, it is difficult to maintain 6 feet social distance and keep your mask up,” he said, emphasising on the utility of vaccine mandates while using public transport. He added that the mandate was a reasonable restriction fulfilling the tests of proportionality.

Chitnis also refuted the submission that the mandate is manifestly arbitrary and it violates the Article 14 of the Constitution, arguing that it is a measure to protect the right to life of the people under Article 21. “Rights have to be balanced. State would be justified in protecting a larger number of people,” he submitted.

Counsel for Madhya Pradesh adopted the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta regarding the need to balance the rights in the context of Covid vaccination. The counsel informed the bench that a notice making vaccination mandatory to avail ration has been withdrawn.

Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari, representing Tamil Nadu, submitted that the state has made vaccination mandatory for accessing public spaces and added that it is required for larger public interest.

“It is to provide security from a higher outbreak,” he submitted.

The top court was informed that the state government derived the power to impose the vaccine mandate from the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Tiwari brought on record reports establishing that when more people are vaccinated, the number of infections reduces. “When you are vaccinated, the likelihood of your hospitalisation is also lower,” he added.

It was submitted before the bench that vaccine mandates were justified — it prevents mutation of the virus and unvaccinated people cause health risk.

Counsel for Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, refuted the claims of advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner, that Phase 3 trial of the vaccine has not been published. The counsel said the Phase 3 trial data was published in Lancet medical journal in November 2021. “Our trials are going on and informed consent is taken,” counsel said.

Citing Mehta’s submissions, the counsel added that over 180 crore vaccines have been administered and adverse events were reported in decimal percentile.

After detailed arguments in the matter, the top reserved its verdict.

Bhushan argued that due to vaccine mandates, “my fundamental right to move freely cannot be restricted in arbitrary manner”.

The top court was hearing a petition filed by Jacob Puliyel, a former member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, seeking the data of clinical trials and adverse effects of Covid vaccines and also challenging the vaccine mandates issued by some state governments.

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-Top News UK News

Wockhardt, SII tie-up to make vaccines in Britain

Serum Life Sciences looks after SII’s global expansion plans. Wockhardt has been looking at vaccine manufacturing partnerships…reports Asian Lite News

Mumbai-based Wockhardt and Serum Institute of India (SII) have entered into a partnership to make 150 million doses of SII vaccines in Wockhardt’s UK plant.

“This is a profit-sharing arrangement whereby we are setting up a new facility at Wrexham in North Wales. The investment on the facility is a joint venture between the two partners. It will be able to make 150 million doses of any SII vaccine for which they deliver the drug substance to us,” Habil Khorakiwala, chairman, Wockhardt, told Business Standard.

This will be a fill-and-finish facility for vaccines.

According to sources, it will take at least one and a half to two years before the new facility is ready.

Serum Lifesciences UK, a subsidiary of SII, and a Wockhardt subsidiary have entered into a profit-sharing arrangement for this new facility.

Natasha Poonawalla, chairperson, Serum Life Sciences, added, “We are delighted to have formed a strategic partnership between Wockhardt and Serum Life Sciences. The collaboration will be instrumental in building long-term capacity in the UK. With this, we seek to further bolster supply resilience and support the global rollout of vaccines.”

SII has supplied the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to the UK already, and having a fill-and-finish facility in the UK would help the firm to have closer access to the UK and EU markets.

Serum Life Sciences looks after SII’s global expansion plans. Wockhardt has been looking at vaccine manufacturing partnerships.

Apart from India, Wockhardt owns plants in the UK and Ireland. The UK plant makes the AstraZeneca vaccine for the UK government.

Murtaza Khorakiwala, managing director (MD) and global chief executive officer (global CEO) of Wockhardt, said, “This deal signifies the role that we will now play in the global supply of multiple vaccines, protecting citizens against infectious diseases.”

ALSO READ-Over 180-crore Covid vaccine doses administered in India

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-Top News COVID-19 UK News

No PCR Test for vaccinated people returning to Britain

A few days later, British airlines asked Johnson to abolish mandatory Covid-19 tests for fully vaccinated passengers…reports Asian Lite News

Britain will abolish mandatory Covid-19 tests for all fully vaccinated travellers returning to the country by the end of January, the Times reported on Sunday, citing a source close to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“We are looking at removing all Covid tests for vaccinated travellers by the end of January, which is likely to coincide with the review of the plan B measures on January 26,” the source said, as quoted by the media.

According to the newspaper, this move will help UK families to save hundreds of pounds and will give impetus to the recovery of the tourism industry.

In addition to the abolition of PCR tests for fully vaccinated people, the minister intends to remove other restrictions, in particular the mandatory wearing of face masks in shops and public transport.

The UK faced a surge in Covid -19 cases ahead of Christmas. On December 7, the authorities introduced the requirement for a negative Covid-19 test to all persons over 12 entering the country amid the spread of the new Omicron strain. In accordance with these rules, all passengers were required to present a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before their arrival.

On December 8, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country would move to the so-called Plan B. The British were encouraged to work from home whenever possible and required to wear a mask. In addition, a Covid-19 pass confirming vaccination became mandatory for visiting public places. Daily testing was required for those who may have come into contact with carriers of the coronavirus.

A few days later, British airlines asked Johnson to abolish mandatory Covid-19 tests for fully vaccinated passengers.

ALSO READ-UAE sees significant decline in Covid-19 cases

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COVID-19 India News

Over 180-crore Covid vaccine doses administered in India

More than 2.12 crore precautionary doses have been administered to the identified categories of healthcare/frontline workers and senior citizens so far, the ministry said…reports Asian Lite News

India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage crossed the 180-crore landmark on Saturday.

As per the Union Health Ministry report, over 17 lakh vaccine doses were administered till 7 pm on Saturday.

Congratulated the nation on achieving the vaccination landmark, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted: “Crossed 180 cr vaccination Doses! Powered by spirit of Jan-Bhagidari, the world’s largest vaccination drive is touching new heights under PM @NarendraModi Ji’s leadership. Keep following COVID appropriate behaviour even after getting vaccinated.”

More than 2.12 crore precautionary doses have been administered to the identified categories of healthcare/frontline workers and senior citizens so far, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, India continues to report a declining trend of fresh Covid cases. A total of 3,614 new cases and 89 Covid related deaths were reported on Saturday morning. The active Covid caseload presently stands at 40,559, as per the ministry report.

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COVID-19 UK News

UK awards £10 million for vaccines research  

Some of the projects are also looking at ways to tackle ‘Disease X’ – a hypothetical future pathogen – to ensure the world is equipped for future epidemics or pandemics…reports Asian Lite News

22 research projects have been selected by the government’s UK Vaccine Network and will help tackle viruses such as Ebola, Lassa Fever and Zika

Research into vaccines to tackle some of the world’s deadliest diseases in low and middle-income countries has been backed by £10 million of UK aid funding, the government has announced today.

The funding provided by the government’s UK Vaccine Network (UKVN) and to be delivered by Innovate UK has been awarded to 22 research projects, supporting development of vaccines for diseases that have the potential to become epidemics. This includes Ebola, Lassa Fever, Zika, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) and Chikungunya virus.

Some of the projects are also looking at ways to tackle ‘Disease X’ – a hypothetical future pathogen – to ensure the world is equipped for future epidemics or pandemics.

The UKVN has already funded 78 projects with over £115 million worth of UK aid funding, as part of the government’s commitment to defeat poverty, tackle instability and create prosperity in developing countries.

For example, earlier work on a Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) vaccine by the University of Oxford, funded in part by the UKVN, allowed them to develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine more quickly, which has since protected tens of millions of people across the world.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said, “Covid-19 has shown us first-hand just how important it is that we work together to keep everyone across the world safe. I am delighted that these innovative projects – tackling serious and deadly diseases – will receive the funding they need to take their research to the next stage. Thank you to the expert scientists behind these vital projects for their efforts that will continue to save millions of lives.”

Indro Mukerjee, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said, “Innovate UK is proud to deliver this vital work on behalf of the UK Vaccine Network. This will build on the crucial delivery of vaccines and vaccine platform technologies. These projects will help to prevent future outbreaks of viral diseases in the developing world and may offer utility against future pandemics, as previously realised with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19.”

The UK is committed to supporting the rest of the world in protecting people from Covid-19 and future diseases. It has invested more than £88 million to support the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and, to date, has donated 32.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. 26.7 million of these doses have gone to COVAX, a global scheme to get vaccines to developing countries.

This builds on the £1.3 billion in UK aid committed to the international health response early in the pandemic, supporting vaccines, health systems and economic recovery in developing countries.

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COVID-19 India News Lite Blogs

Couple behind indigenous vaccine receives Padma Bhushan

The vaccine maker developed Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology (NIV)…reports Asian Lite News

Dr Krishna Ella and Suchitra Ella, the couple behind Bharat Biotech, which developed India’s first indigenous vaccine for Covid-19, have been awarded Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in the country.

The award for co-founders of the Hyderabad-based company was announced on the eve of 73rd Republic Day.

Dr Krishna Ella is the Chairman and Managing Director of the biotechnology company while his wife is Joint Managing Director. They will receive the award for distinguish service of high order in the field of trade and industry.

The Hyderabad-based firm rolled out the vaccine early last year and it has since been the part of India’s Covid vaccination programme.

The vaccine maker developed Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology (NIV).

Krishna and Suchitra Ella founded Bharat Biotech in 1996. A gold medalist at university, Krishna Ella worked as a research faculty at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A research scientist in Molecular Biology, he believes that innovative technology in vaccine development is essential to solve public healthcare problems caused by infectious diseases. Under his leadership, Bharat Biotech has grown to become a global leader in innovative vaccine.

A serial entrepreneur with a passion for innovative ideas, he has also ventured into veterinary vaccines, food processing, and developing biotechnology infrastructure in the country.

A BA in economics and social sciences from the University of Madras, Suchitra Ella hold diplomas in business development from UWCU, Madison, the US. She also holds diploma in real estate management from the University of South Carolina, and a post-graduate diploma in patent law from NALSAR, Hyderabad.

Dr Krishna Ella and Suchitra Ella, the couple behind Bharat Biotech, which developed India’s first indigenous vaccine for Covid-19, have been awarded Padma Bhushan

Meanwhile, five others from Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh figure in the list of Padma Shri awardees.

They include Narasimha Rao Garikapati (literature and education), Gosaveedu Shaik Hassan (posthumous) (art), Dr Sunkara Venkata Adinarayana Rao (medicine) from Andhra Pradesh, Darshanam Mogilaiah, Ramachandraiah and Padmaja Reddy (Art) from Telangana.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has congratulated the Telugu people who were nominated for the Padma Awards for the efforts in their respective fields.

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has also congratulated Padma awardees from the state.

ALSO READ-Padma awards 2022: Full list of recipients

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-Top News UK News

UK donates over 4 million vaccine doses to Bangladesh

This vaccine donation by the UK is a powerful demonstration of Brit Bangla Bondhon between two countries. The UK will do everything we can to support Bangladesh to save lives and defeat the pandemic…reports Asian Lite News.

The UK donated over 4 million doses of the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, made by Oxford Bio-medical in Oxford and packaged in Wrexham, North Wales, to Bangladesh through the COVAX vaccine sharing mechanism.

Bangladesh’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and the country’s economic recovery, will be reinforced by this donation from the UK. The vaccine consignment arrived in Bangladesh on 13 December. While welcoming the donation, the British High Commissioner HE Robert Chatterton Dickson said, “We welcome the arrival of over 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the UK to Bangladesh. Like the rest of the world, the UK and Bangladesh have experienced difficult times because of the pandemic. And we are both in it together in building back better, safer, greener.”

This vaccine donation by the UK is a powerful demonstration of Brit Bangla Bondhon between two countries. The UK will do everything we can to support Bangladesh to save lives and defeat the pandemic.

On the afternoon of 15 December, Zahid Maleque, MP, Minister, Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, received the donations officially in an event held at the Bangladesh government’s guest house Padma. Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh HE Ito Naoki, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh, Sheldon Yett, and senior officials from the government of Bangladesh were present at the event.

At the G7 this year, the UK committed to donate 100 million doses by June 2022. 80% of those UK doses will be distributed through the COVAX facility.

The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to Covid-19, including through investing £90 million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Over half a billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been delivered at a non-profit price globally, with two-thirds going to lower and middle-income countries.

The UK also kick-started efforts to establish COVAX in 2020, providing a total of £548 million to fund vaccines for lower-income countries. The scheme has delivered more than 152 million vaccine doses to over 137 countries and territories, including in 83 lower-middle-income countries. 65% of the initial vaccine doses have been Oxford-AstraZeneca. COVAX aims to deliver 1.8 billion vaccines to lower-income countries around the world by early 2022.

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-Top News COVID-19 UK News

UK approves Covid jab for under-12s

The “overwhelming majority” of reported side-effects from the two-shot “age-appropriate” jab related to mild symptoms, such as a sore arm or a flu-like illness, she added…reports Asian Lite News.

British regulators on Wednesday approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in children aged five to 11, as the country reported more than 100,000 new daily cases for the first time as Omicron surged.

The developments came after the government said it was cutting the isolation period required for positive cases while Wales and Northern Ireland followed Scotland in unveiling new post-Christmas curbs, primarily around hospitality and large events.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had approved a new lower-dose formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot after finding it was “safe and effective” for children aged five to 11.

MHRA chief executive June Raine said there was “robust evidence to support a positive benefit risk for children in this age group”.

The “overwhelming majority” of reported side-effects from the two-shot “age-appropriate” jab related to mild symptoms, such as a sore arm or a flu-like illness, she added.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises UK health departments on immunisation, said it was now recommending a primary course of the vaccination be offered to some within the age group.

Britain is in the midst of a stepped-up booster campaign, as it tries to minimise the impact of weeks of rising Omicron infections.

On Wednesday the country surpassed 30 million third doses administered as it aims to offer the additional jab to all adults before the end of the year.

Record infections

The variant is now the dominant strain of the virus across the UK — already one of the hardest hit in Europe, with a death toll of nearly 148,000 — as daily cases reach record levels.

It announced 106,122 new infections Wednesday, the highest figure since mass testing began in the summer of last year.

Earlier, the government said people who have tested positive can stop self-isolating after seven days instead of 10 if they have taken two negative lateral flow tests.

Amid the skyrocketing case numbers, it could potentially allow many more to join family Christmas celebrations.

Hours later, devolved governments in Cardiff and Belfast announced new curbs from December 26 — leaving just England with no imminent restrictions unveiled.

In Wales, socialising in pubs, cinemas and restaurants will be limited to groups of six people or less, while mandatory table service and providing contract tracing details will return.

In Northern Ireland, nightclubs will have to close at 8 pm, alongside guidance to limit contacts with different households.

It follows Scotland announcing renewed rules there Tuesday, which also come into force on December 26 for at least three weeks, and cap attendance at outdoor events at 500.

The move means the pandemic has forced the cancellation of Edinburgh’s hugely popular New Year’s Eve street party for the second successive year.

Antiviral drugs deal

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted calls to impose stricter rules in England over Christmas.

The embattled leader, reeling from weeks of scandals and setbacks — plus growing discontent in his own party — has said he wants more evidence on Omicron’s severity and ability to evade vaccines.

Meanwhile his government has signed deals to buy more than 4 million courses of two new antiviral drugs– Pfizer’s ritonavir and US rival Merck/MSD’s molnupiravir — to treat Covid-19.

Molnupiravir, sold as Lagevrio, is part of a national trial run by the University of Oxford that people can join if they have virus symptoms.

S.African govt welcomes removal of travel curbs by UK

Britain was the first country in the world to approve it last month and the authorities will make it available to those at high risk of severe illness, such as people with cancer.

Pfizer’s pill, marketed as Paxlovid, has yet to be authorised anywhere in the world.

The company said Tuesday that clinical trials showed it reduced hospital admissions and deaths among at-risk people by almost 90 percent, when taken a few days after symptoms began.

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