Pfizer / BioNTech request approval of their vaccine against covid-19

The agency plans to study 11 vaccines to supply the region. AFP photo

The US giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech requested urgent approval of their coronavirus vaccine on Friday, as rising infections are causing the return of lockdowns that traumatized billions of people and the global economy. at the beginning of this year. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said its vaccine advisory committee will meet on December 10 to discuss the application from Pfizer and BioNTech. 

“The FDA recognizes that transparency and dialogue are essential for the public to have confidence in vaccines against Covid-19“Said the director of the organization, Stephen Hahn, in a statement. 

He also pointed out that the vaccine could be available probably in the first half of December in the United States, which is experiencing a new wave of infections that forced New York to close schools and California to implement night curfews. 

“The presentation in the United States represents a fundamental milestone in our journey to offer a vaccine against Covid-19 to the world, "said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

The BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine and another being developed by the American firm Moderna have taken the lead in this race.

The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that the European bloc could approve both vaccines in the second half of next month.

No quick fix

But the controversial and complex question of how to speed up the production and distribution of vaccines means there will be no immediate relief. 

And the latest wave of the pandemic is hitting harder than the first, which started after the virus spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

The total number of deaths on the planet is around 1,4 million and infections exceed 57 million, although the real figures are unknown, since countries use different methodologies to count and notify cases.

Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be the region with the most deaths, with more than 430.000, and the second with the most cases (12,2 million), after Europe, which adds 15,8 million infections.

On Thursday, Mexico exceeded 100.000 deaths amid a rise in infections, although the authorities assure that deaths tend to fall and are mainly due to the pre-existence of "chronic diseases."

In India, infections exceeded nine million, just below the United States, and some of its cemeteries have run out of space.

Schools closed in New York

In the United States, Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Donald Trump, tested positive for Covid-19 and is undergoing a quarantine without symptoms, a spokesperson reported Friday. 

Donald Jr., 42, is the latest in a series of infections from Covid-19 in the White House, including his father, First Lady Melania and Trump's youngest son, Barron.

In the United States, where more than 252.000 deaths have been reported, just 1.800 on Friday, the situation has alarmed authorities enough to request that people stay home during the Thanksgiving holidays, the date on which the Americans generally travel to be with their families.

Not everyone is happy with the new measures.

More than 13.000 people have signed an online petition to keep New York schools open, after the city ordered the closure of schools for its 1,1 million students. 

In California, about 94% of the population will be under a night curfew for a month from Saturday. The measure bans all "non-essential" journeys between 22:00 pm and 05:00 am in the counties most affected by the virus.

A similar measure ordered Istanbul, in Turkey, for its 15 million inhabitants, starting this Friday and every weekend. 

Canada's largest city, Toronto, and its suburbs, will once again be confined from Monday.  

- "Extraordinary advances" -

Governments are pinning their hopes on a vaccine that can save them from the closure of shops and schools and from confinements, which have severe consequences on the mental health of the population.

The president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, said on Friday that he expects “a substantial part” of the country's more than 47 million inhabitants to be vaccinated by mid-2021, while the Netherlands said it was ready to distribute vaccines to about 3,5, XNUMX million people in the first quarter of the year. 

The British government announced that it had asked its drug regulatory agency to study the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine with a view to an imminent launch.

Another candidate vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, has been shown to be safe and effective in a smaller study of older adults.

Developing countries will face very serious challenges. The World Health Organization asked the G20 to help fill a $ 4.500 billion funding gap for a program to distribute vaccines globally, according to a message seen by AFP.

The unprecedented speed with which vaccines are being developed has raised alarm.

China's Sinopharm revealed on Friday that it has already administered its experimental vaccine to nearly a million people.

But America's top infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci, tried to allay concerns about the Pfizer and Moderna candidates.

"The speed of the process in no way compromises safety or scientific integrity," he said. / AFP

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