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The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the first country to formally approve the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a huge symbolic milestone in the fight against the pandemic.
The vaccine has been authorized far quicker than any other in history, its lightning development outpacing the 15-20 years it usually takes to develop these types of medicines.
The first inoculations are set to be rolled out next week, the government said.
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British government criticized for nationalist vaccine messaging
The British government may have been the world's first to formally approve a Covid-19 vaccine Wednesday, but it has also been heavily criticized for attempting to use that milestone for nationalistic ends.
Minutes after the U.K. announced it had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Business Secretary Alok Sharma tweeted, "In years to come, we will remember this moment as the day the U.K. led humanity's charge against this disease."
Plenty of people pointed out that the vaccine was developed in Germany by BioNTech, a company led by the children of Turkish immigrants, before being scrutinized in mass trials by the U.S. pharma giant Pfizer and then manufactured in Belgium.
"Why is it so difficult to recognize this important step forward as a great international effort and success?" Andreas Michaelis, the German ambassador to the U.K., responded to Sharma's tweet. "I really don't think this is a national story. In spite of the German company BioNTech having made a crucial contribution, this is European and transatlantic."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among those to suggest Brexit had helped the U.K.'s rapid vaccine response. "Because we've left the E.U., we’ve been able to move faster," he said. This was later contradicted by Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the U.K.'s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency — the body responsible for approving the vaccine — who told a news conference that this had not been a factor.
E.U. pushes for 'right to disconnect' from work at home
BRUSSELS — European Union lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a “right to disconnect” from the internet and email, with around one-third of people now working from home across the 27-nation bloc due in large part to coronavirus restrictions.
In a resolution, the parliamentarians argue that disconnecting from work should be a fundamental right and they want the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to draw up rules allowing people to take time out from the pressures of working at home.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and we must update our rules to catch up with the new reality,” said Maltese Socialist lawmaker Alex Agius Saliba, who led work on the resolution.
The resolution, which is non-binding, was passed by 31 votes to 6 against, with 18 abstentions in the European Parliament’s Employment Committee. It must still have to be rubber-stamped by the full house, then submitted to the commission and national EU governments for possible endorsement.
In it, the lawmakers argue that the culture of being “always on” and the growing expectation that workers should be reachable at any time can hurt work-life balance, physical and mental health, and well-being.
NYC sheriff shuts down Staten Island bar for defying restrictions
A bar on Staten Island that violated health and liquor laws was shut down Tuesday afternoon by the New York City Sheriff’s Office.
Mac's Pub, which is in an area where the city prohibits indoor dining, had no liquor license, stored illegal liquor and made illegal sales, the sheriff's office said Tuesday. Four people face criminal charges and health violations after breaking emergency orders meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the sheriff's office said.
Deputies issued summonses to three employees for violation of emergency and executive orders, failure to observe order, and failure to protect health and safety, according to the sheriff's office.
San Francisco mayor dined at same Napa Valley restaurant as Calif. governor
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California’s governor was there.
Breed joined seven others at the three Michelin-starred French Laundry on Nov. 7 to celebrate the 60th birthday of socialite Gorretti Lo Lui, the mayor’s spokesman confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. She dined in the same kind of partially enclosed indoor/outdoor room Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated in a day earlier.
Newsom, who has appealed to Californians to “do your part” and stay home, apologized when the 12-person dinner was reported, then again when photos emerged showing him, his wife and others sitting close together at the same table without masks.
Breed’s spokesman, Jeff Cretan, called the mayor’s French Laundry dinner a “small family birthday dinner.” He did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday inquiring whether the dinner involved more than three different households, which are prohibited under the state’s rules.
Italy plans to distribute more than 200M vaccine doses in 2021
ROME — Italy’s health minister told lawmakers on Wednesday that Italy will distribute 202.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines during 2021 in “an unprecedented effort that will require a huge collective commitment.’’
Robert Speranza said the vaccines will not be mandatory, but that the doses allotted Italy through an EU collective purchasing agreement would be “enough to potentially vaccinate the entire population.”
Speranza emphasized that the distribution of the vaccines would depend on regulatory approval which was still pending from the European Medicines Agency.
The first vaccines are expected to arrive in January with Pfizer’s vaccine expected to get first EMA approval by Dec. 29 and Moderna by Jan. 12. Priority will be given first to Italy's front-line health care workers, then residents of nursing homes, then to elderly over 80 before moving to other groups like people with medical risks, law enforcement, teachers and prison workers.
British government is first to approve Covid-19 vaccine, will roll out shots next week
The United Kingdom has become the first country to formally approve a Covid-19 vaccine, giving the green light to Pfizer-BioNTech and saying the shots will start being rolled out next week.
The announcement Wednesday marks a huge milestone, not just for the fight against the coronavirus but also for science. This achievement has come far quicker than any other vaccine, which typically take 15-20 years to make.
"For so long we've been saying that if a vaccine is developed, then things will get better in 2021, and now we can say when this vaccine is rolled out things will get better," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC.
The roll-out will start small, just 800,000 shots in the first batch with most of the 40 million doses ordered by the British government coming next year.
It will not go unnoticed that British regulators have made this decision ahead of their American counterparts, as different officials and businesses around the world strike the right balance between speed, safety and effectiveness.