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Britain to Be First Country to Use Pfizer COVID Vaccine

By VOA News December 06, 2020

Britain will be the first country to roll out the Pfizer - BioNTech coronavirus vaccine – the first Western nation to do so, the government announced Sunday.

The first doses will be distributed to health care workers and Britons over the age of 80 starting Tuesday, the National Health Service said.

Roughly 800,000 doses are expected to be administered during the first week.

Pfizer and BioNTech could receive U.S. approval later this month.

China is also gearing up to introduce a huge coronavirus vaccine initiative.

The Associated Press reports provincial governments across the country are placing orders for experimental, domestically made coronavirus vaccines, although health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they may reach the country's 1.4 billion people.

The AP says more than a million Chinese health care workers have already received experimental vaccines under emergency use permission, but there have been no indications about possible side effects.

Russia launched its coronavirus vaccine initiative Saturday to contain the outbreak there.

The most vulnerable will receive the first doses of the vaccine named Sputnik V, including medical workers and teachers. The vaccine was approved in August, despite criticism from Western experts about the country's dearth of clinical trial information.

On Friday, Bahrain became the second country to approve emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, after Britain.

The challenge in distributing the vaccine will be keeping it cold enough. It must be stored at temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit). Bahrain routinely registers summer temperatures of 40 Celsius (104 F).

Bahrain has already inoculated 6,000 people with a Chinese vaccine that uses a dead version of the virus. The Middle Eastern nation has had nearly 88,000 cases of the coronavirus and almost 350 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University. The virus causes the COVID-19 disease.

In the United States, millions of people in southern California and the San Joaquin Valley will be under new restrictive stay-at-home orders, starting Sunday night.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said last week that the orders would go into effect when the intensive care capacity of a region's hospitals fell below 15%.

Starting Sunday night, the California orders will close all outdoor dining, public outdoor playgrounds, outdoor museums, zoos and aquariums, drive-in theaters, and open-air tour buses and boats. Pet grooming and electronics or shoe repair, considered low-contact retail, will be allowed on a curbside-drop-off basis. All other retail, including grocery stores, will be allowed to operate at 20% capacity.

Nursing home deaths are once again climbing in Europe. AP reports that at least 5,000 "institutionalized elderly" have died in France in the past month, while Portugal has sent military units to nursing homes to instruct staff on how to properly perform disinfections.

A surge in cases has prompted South Korean officials to impose new restrictions in the capital city of Seoul and surrounding locations.

Starting Tuesday, gyms and karaoke bars will be closed, no gatherings larger than 49 people will be permitted and religious services can only be held online or broadcast.

There are more than 66.7 million global cases of the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University, and 1.5 million deaths.

With 14.5 million infections, the United States has more cases than any other nation. India follows the U.S. with 9.6 million infections and Brazil comes third with 6.5 million.

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