(Reuters) – EU health agencies have recommended that vaccines be mixed and matched for both initial courses and booster doses as the region battles rising COVID-19 cases ahead of Christmas.
The World Health Organization’s advisory experts are considering evidence on COVID-19 heterologous vaccines, or mix and match vaccines, a WHO spokesperson said. Mandatory vaccinations against the coronavirus should be an “absolute last resort”, according to the WHO’s top Europe official.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* EU health ministers discussed measures to try to halt the spread of the Omicron variant, with the Netherlands calling for negative tests for incoming travellers from outside the bloc and France urging tests even for those arriving from EU states.
* The Omicron variant has spread across Denmark, health authorities said after registering large outbreaks in the east and west of the Nordic country.
* Sweden will reintroduce a raft of measures to curb rising COVID-19 infections, urging renewed social distancing and the use of masks in public transportation, the government said.
* French authorities in the Caribbean overseas territory of Martinique have restored public order and all roadblocks have been cleared, the overseas minister said.
* Close to 80% of French children over 12 have now been vaccinated, the country’s education minister said.
* Early indications suggest the Omicron variant is more transmissible than the earlier Delta variant, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
* The United Kingdom saw a record rise in the number of deaths caused by alcohol misuse last year, which public health officials said was linked to the wider social impact of the pandemic.
* Poland will introduce compulsory vaccinations for doctors, teachers and security service personnel from March 1, the health minister said.
* Spain’s health commission approved vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11.
* Switzerland will deploy up to 2,500 military personnel to help regional authorities cope with the pandemic, the government said.
* The unvaccinated will remain in lockdown when Austria’s general lockdown lifts on Sunday, new Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed.
* Canada plans to expand its existing vaccine mandate to cover banks, telecommunications and other federally regulated workspaces by early 2022, the labour minister said.
* Mexico City officials will begin offering a third vaccine dose to residents over the age of 60, officials said.
* The Philippine economy is likely to grow faster than previously thought this year, but downside risks caused by the pandemic persist, the World Bank said.
* A nascent recovery in Asia-Pacific international travel demand has been set back by the Omicron variant as governments tighten rules, but airline bosses say they hope any backward moves will be short-lived.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Africa needs to make its own vaccines to avoid a repeat of its supply problems in the pandemic but faces big obstacles in turning itself from a pharmaceutical testing ground into a place where vaccines are created, experts said.
* The head of the European Medicines Agency said that it could soon approve the vaccine developed by U.S. biotech company Novavax.
* Canadian drug developer Medicago’s plant-based vaccine candidate, enhanced by GlaxoSmithKline’s booster, was 75.3% effective against the Delta variant in a late stage study, the two companies said.
* Waning worries about the Omicron variant and a timely booster shot of Chinese stimulus lifted world stock markets and oil, and left traders offloading safe-haven currencies and bonds again. [MKTS/GLOB]
* China’s stocks and the yuan have held firm with investors betting the country can cope with the Omicron variant better than elsewhere.
(Compiled by Juliette Portala and Federico Maccioni; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich)