Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, while also firmly endorsing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as some countries continue to suspend its use.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris described AstraZeneca’s vaccine at a virtual briefing hosted in Geneva as “excellent” adding that “we should continue” to use the vaccine.
The WHO endorsement came as Thailand followed an increasing number of European countries in suspending AstraZeneca’s use because of periodic blood clots among recipients, Bulgaria and the Democratic Republic of Congo also suspended AstraZeneca use last Friday however, AstraZeneca said in response to the claims that there was no evidence of increased risk as being claimed in some countries.
The European Medicines Agency, a European Union body that supervises medical products, said in a statement that the AstraZeneca vaccine’s “benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while the investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.” Thromboembolic events occur when a blood clot breaks loose and travels through the body, causing harm.
The WHO had already approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for global emergency use and on Friday broadened global access to inoculations by approving Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the first to be administered in a single injection instead of two. The WHO also previously backed the vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech, making for a total of three vaccine approvals.
“Every new, safe and effective tool against COVID-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
Meanwhile another development on Friday, Brazil reported 2,216 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the third day in a row that fatalities in the country exceeded 2,000. The stretch of deaths is the worst in Brazil since the pandemic began last year.
Brazil also reported 85,663 new cases of the coronavirus infection Friday, the second-highest number for a day.
”The situation in Brazil Is deeply concerning unless serious measures are taken, the upward trend now flooding the health system and becoming more than its capacity will result in more death” Tedros said
In Italy, most residents are under fresh lockdown with restrictions which began yesterday as the government tries to stop a rising number of cases. The restrictions include the closure of schools and nonessential shops in more than half of the country, including the capital, Rome, and the financial center, Milan.
Meanwhile in Greek officials said they would extend COVID-19 restrictions in Athens to March 22, rather than March 16 as previously planned. Schools and nonessential shops have been closed in the city, along with other “red zone” areas, since last month.
In France, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose above 4 million on Friday as the health ministry reported more than 25,000 new infections.
In the United States, deaths from COVID-19 have fallen in the last week to about 1,400 per day. That is down from the 2,000 daily deaths in recent weeks and the January peak of about 4,500 deaths per day.