(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Germany limits use of AstraZeneca shots
Germany will from Wednesday limit the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 60 and above as well as high-priority groups following further reports of a rare brain blood disorder.
“We have to be able trust the vaccines,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists at a news conference on Tuesday. “And transparency is the best way to deal with such a situation,” she added.
Acting on advice from Germany’s vaccine committee, federal and state health ministries agreed that under 60-year-olds should only receive the AstraZeneca vaccine if they belong to high-priority groups, which include high-risk patients and medical workers, in consultation with a doctor.
France’s Macron to address country
French President Emmanuel Macron will deliver a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening, his office said, as a fast-spreading third wave of infections threatens to overrun hospitals.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care increased by 98 on Tuesday to breach the 5,000 threshold, the highest number this year.
Public health experts say the burden on intensive care is evidence that the current set of restrictions do not go far enough.
Australia’s vaccine roll-out misses targets
Australia has fallen far behind its target for vaccinations, figures showed on Wednesday, with only about 670,000 people inoculated against an initial target of 4 million by end-March.
The slow roll-out, which puts Australia behind many other developed countries, has been blamed by the government on supply issues from Europe, while recent floods across the east coast have slowed the delivery of vaccines.
State governments have also complained about slower-than-expected distribution and a lack of certainty on supplies, while local media have reported errors by private contractors hired to assist with the roll-out.
T cells induced by infection respond to new virus variants
A critical component of the immune system known as T cells that respond to fight infection from the original version of the novel coronavirus appear to also protect against three of the most concerning new virus variants, according to a U.S. laboratory study released on Tuesday.
Several recent studies have shown that certain variants of the novel coronavirus can undermine immune protection from antibodies and vaccines.
But antibodies may not tell the whole story, according to the study by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. T cells appear to play an important additionally protective role.
Data withheld from WHO team, says Tedros
Data was withheld from World Health Organization investigators who travelled to China to research the origins of the epidemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday.
The United States, the European Union and other Western countries immediately called for China to give “full access” to independent experts to all data about the original outbreak in late 2019.
One of the team’s investigators has already said China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the global pandemic began.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes)