NYC Pitches Vaccine Tourism; India Breaks Records: Virus Update

New York City is in talks to offer free vaccines to tourists as a way to encourage them to visit, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have capacity to make as many as 3 billion doses of their vaccine this year, more than double the amount the partners predicted six months ago.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in against a U.S. proposal to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, casting doubt on whether the idea has enough international support to become a reality.

India reported its highest-ever daily tally of 412,262 new virus cases and also a record 3,980 deaths. The governors of Tokyo and Osaka called for their virus emergencies to be extended, with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set to decide Friday.

Key Developments

  • Global Tracker: Cases near 155.4 million; deaths exceed 3.24 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.21 billion doses have been given
  • Moderna Covid booster shots prove effective against variants (Video)
  • Vaccines work on this India variant. Experts fret about the next
  • A new wave of vaccines is coming, and they’re not all also-rans
  • Broken ventilators add momentum to ‘right to repair’ movement

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Alcohol Deaths in England, Wales Rise (1:43 p.m. NY)

Deaths related to alcohol in England and Wales last year hit their highest level in two decades, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The number rose by almost 20%, with deaths from alcoholic liver disease and poisoning accelerating after March, when virus lockdowns began.

Colorado Reports India Variant (1:33 p.m. NY)

Colorado’s highest Covid-19 transmission rate is among junior high school and high school students, ages 11-17, state epidemiologist Rachael Herlihy said Thursday.

Colorado has recorded five cases of a B.1617.2 virus variant from India, all in Mesa County in the western part of the state, Herlihy said during an online briefing.

Hospitalizations statewide are among the highest since December at 666, she said.

Separately, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced more than 2 million of the 4.7 state’s residents eligible for the vaccine have been fully vaccinated.

Merkel Opposes Waiving Patents (11:55 a.m. NY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in against a U.S. proposal to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, casting doubt on whether the idea has enough international support to become a reality.

The U.S. plan would create “severe complications” for the production of vaccines, a German government spokeswoman said Thursday in an email. Without the incentive of profits from research and development spending, drugmakers might not move as aggressively to make vaccines in the future, the industry has argued.

“The limiting factor in the manufacture of vaccines is production capcity and the high quality standards, not the patents,” the spokeswoman said. “Protecting intellectual property is the wellspring of innovation and must remain that way.”

NYC Pitches Vaccine Tourism (10:41 a.m. NY)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is working with state officials to offer free vaccines to visitors as a way to encourage them to visit and spur tourism.

Mobile vans will bring Johnson & Johnson one-dose shots to Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge Park and other popular locations, de Blasio said Thursday during a virus briefing.

“We think this is a positive message to send to tourists,” the mayor said. “Come here and we’re going to take care of you.”

The city plans a $30 million marketing blitz to recharge its tourism industry. Capacity restrictions on restaurants, stores and shows will be lifted on May 19 as Covid-19 cases decrease and vaccinations increase, Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week. Broadway tickets for September shows went on sale today.

Pfizer Ups Production Target (10:38 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have capacity to make as many as 3 billion doses of their Covid-19 vaccine this year, more than double the amount the partners had predicted less than six months ago.

The partners will further increase their capacity for 2022 to more than 3 billion doses, BioNTech said in an e-mailed statement.

The increase is the latest in a series of production target boosts and comes amid increased demand for messenger RNA Covid vaccines around the world.

India Variant Spreads in Africa (10:31 a.m. NY)

The coronavirus strain circulating in India has been detected in three African countries, according to the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Authorities in Kenya, Uganda and Morocco have reported the presence of the variant known as B.1.617 that is overwhelming the health system in India, Africa CDC’s director, John Nkengasong, said in an online briefing Thursday. Five cases have been found in Kenya and one in Uganda, while the Moroccan government is “investigating some cases there,” he said.

Fearing an influx of infections and mindful of B.1.617, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are among countries that have temporarily banned flights from India.

Rwanda Eyes Vaccine Plant (10:07 a.m. NY)

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said his country is in talks to establish the first mRNA vaccine plant in Africa as the continent battles the coronavirus pandemic. He did not give details.

Africa has few manufacturing facilities of any kind and most that do exist can only package and distribute the inoculations — so called fill-finish facilities — rather than make the ingredients needed for the shots.

Vaccines Donated to Olympics (9:30 a.m. NY)

Tokyo Olympic athletes and delegations will be able to receive Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE as organizers push ahead with preparations for the delayed games.

The International Olympic Committee signed an agreement with the companies to donate the doses, with the first delivery expected to begin at the end of this month, according to a statement from the drugmakers on Thursday. The statement did not specify the number of doses.

Hungary’s Population Falls (9:15 a.m. NY)

Hungary’s 2020 population drop, as measured by deaths exceeding births, was the biggest in more than a century with the eastern European Union one of the world’s worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The plunge of 48,667 was the highest since 1918, when the Spanish flu and World War I were the biggest contributing factors, figures released Wednesday showed.

Russia Approves One-Dose Shot (7:59 a.m. NY)

Russia approved a single-dose version of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine after it showed almost 80% efficacy, according to the state-run fund that backed its development.

The 79.4% efficacy rate of the vaccine, called Sputnik Light, is based on an analysis of real-world data rather than a standard clinical trial, and interim results from final-stage study are expected later this month, according to a statement from the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Early and mid-stage studies showed no serious adverse events, RDIF said.

U.S. Patent Shock Roils Pharma (7:21 a.m. NY)

The U.S.’s sudden support for a waiver of patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines headed to the World Trade Organization, setting the stage for potentially thorny negotiations over sharing the proprietary know-how needed to boost global supplies of the life-saving shots.

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“In terms of how soon the WTO can deliver — that literally depends on the WTO members, collectively, being able to deliver,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in an interview Wednesday. “I am the first one to admit that what we are leaning into is a process that is not going to be easy.”

With the European Union and China signaling a willingness to take part in the debate after the Biden administration’s shock announcement, stock prices tumbled worldwide.

Moderna Reported Effective for Teens (7:18 a.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. said studies of its Covid vaccine in teenagers showed that it was 96% effective and raised its product sales projections for the year as it reported its first-ever profitable quarter.

Germany Backs Lockdown Exemptions (7:17 a.m. NY)

German residents who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will be exempt from most lockdown rules under legislation approved Thursday in the lower house of parliament.

The law, which also covers people who have recovered from Covid-19, is set to be voted on by the upper house on Friday and will likely take effect this weekend. For people considered immune, mandatory tests for trips to the hairdresser and non-essential stores will no longer be required, and the need to comply with curfews and quarantine rules will be waived.

EU Defends Vaccination Drive (6:15 a.m. NY)

The head of the European Union’s executive arm mounted a spirited defense of the bloc’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, taking a swipe at countries like the U.S. and the U.K. as she hailed her region as the world’s top vaccines exporter.

“It is clear that our European vaccination campaign is a success,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told an online conference. “What counts is the steadily increasing daily delivery of vaccines to our people — and to the world.”

Biden’s Vaccine Path Gets Tougher (6 a.m. NY)

President Joe Biden’s government is now giving an average of 2.13 million shots a day, down from 3.37 million about three weeks ago. And on Tuesday, which has the lowest shots of any day of the week, fewer than a million were given for the first time since February.

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In response, the administration announced this week that it would concentrate more on smaller clinics and mobile sites in rural areas, while planning to wind down mass-vaccination sites.

Hungary Touts Pfizer to Buoy Campaign (5:28 p.m. HK)

Hungary will make Pfizer and Moderna Covid shots widely available to the public as the nation seeks to keep up the pace of one of the European Union’s fastest vaccination campaigns.

Authorities will make available as many as 180,000 vaccines from the two companies each week on an online vaccine registration platform, most of them from Pfizer, Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas said at a briefing on Thursday.

Australia Clots Tied to Astra (2:25 p.m. HK)

Five additional cases of a rare type of blood clot were identified in recipients of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine in Australia. All are receiving treatment, the company said in a statement Thursday. More cases of so-called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia are expected as the vaccine is offered to people older than 50 in Australia, said Katie Flanagan, president-elect of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases.

Tokyo Emergency May Lengthen (2:06 p.m. HK)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would decide Friday on extending a state of emergency for Tokyo and three other regions, as he tries to stem a surge in Covid-19 infections ahead of the capital hosting the Olympics from July.

Tokyo wants to extend a virus emergency currently in place and will soon seek approval for the move from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in a bid to stem a surge in infections ahead of the capital hosting the Olympics from July.

The major metro area of Osaka, where infection numbers have reached record highs in recent days, is also set to seek an extension, with Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura saying he has no other option.

Sydney Imposes New Curbs (9:46 a.m. HK)

Restrictions on gatherings are being imposed in Sydney and surrounding areas due to two Covid-19 cases detected in Australia’s most-populous city.

From 5 p.m. Thursday, the maximum number of people allowed into homes will be 20, while singing and dancing in all indoor venues except those hosting weddings will be banned, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. Masks will be compulsory on public transport and in all public indoor venues, such as retail, theaters, hospitals and aged-care facilities. The restrictions will last until at least the end of the weekend.

Hong Kong Vaccinations Pass 1 Million (9:03 a.m. HK)

The number of people who have received their first Covid-19 vaccine dose has exceeded 1 million on Wednesday, Hong Kong’s government said. The vaccination program has been running since Feb, 26.

Still, only about 13.4% of the Hong Kong population has received at least one dose, according to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker. That’s still well behind rival financial hubs like Singapore, London and New York.

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