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Brazil OKs Two COVID Vaccines Amid Steep Surge in Cases

By VOA News January 17, 2021

Brazil approved two vaccines for emergency use against the coronavirus Sunday as the country's death toll from the disease it causes neared 210,000 and some of its hospitals grappled with an oxygen shortage.

The country's health ministry said Sunday that the death toll was nearing 210,000, the second highest in the world after the United States.

Brazil approved emergency use of vaccines from both Britain's Astra-Zeneca and China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Hours later, a nurse in Sao Paulo was inoculated with the Chinese vaccine known as "CoronaVac."

Meanwhile in Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, hospital employees described to the Associated Press having to choose which patients to provide with oxygen as supplies in the remote city dwindled.

Brazil has also recorded cases of a new variant of the virus that is potentially more contagious.

Pakistan also announced Sunday that it had approved the Astra-Zeneca vaccine for emergency use. The South Asian country has confirmed nearly 520,000 cases of the virus, significantly fewer than its larger neighbor India.

Britain announced Sunday that it plans to have every adult in the country, roughly 51 million people, inoculated by September.

"If we can do it faster than that, great, but that's the road map," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told SkyNews Sunday.

In the United States, Los Angeles county in California became the first U.S. county to record 1 million COVID-19 cases. The news of the number of infections is compounded by the confirmation of the appearance in the county of the highly contagious British variant of the coronavirus.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, said in a statement, "The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles county is troubling, as our health care system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized." She added that Los Angeles is also experiencing "hospitalizations and deaths, five-times what we experienced over the summer."

The United States has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus of anywhere in the world, with nearly 24 million cases and nearly 400,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

In many Eastern European countries, skepticism about the safety of the vaccine is high. In Serbia, only 200,000 people out of a population of 7 million have applied to receive the vaccine. Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic notably said he did not want to be forced to be inoculated.

Djokovic tested positive for the virus this summer during a tournament he organized with lax restrictions for masks and social distancing.

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