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Britain starts virus jabs, Biden vows 100M vaccinations

LONDON (AFP) — Britain on Tuesday became the first Western country to start mass coronavirus vaccinations, as Joe Biden pledged his administration would inoculate 100 million people in the United States over the first 100 days of his presidency. Kicking off Britain’s “V-Day,” Margaret Keenan said she felt “privileged” to be given the injection, the first of millions expected to be administered in the hard-hit country over the coming months.

The Pfizer-BioNTech jab is one of several vaccines bringing hope for an end to the pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide and ravaged economies.

Frontrunners Pfizer-BioNTech and US biotech firm Moderna have reported efficacy of 95 percent and 94 percent respectively and have given data to regulators.

But Oxford University and AstraZeneca became the first Covid-19 vaccine makers to publish final-stage clinical trial data in a scientific journal.

The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, confirmed that their vaccine works in an average of 70 percent of cases.

But the focus remained on the launch of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

The second jab in Britain went to a man named William Shakespeare.

The over-80s, care home workers, and at-risk health and social care staff will be at the front of the line for vaccination.

Almost 40 percent of the new cases detected over the last seven days worldwide have been in Europe, the region topping 20 million cases on Tuesday. But the rate of infection appears to be stabilizing.

Russia, one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries in terms of cases, on Saturday began vaccinating high-risk workers with its own jab, Sputnik V, and Beijing has also begun an emergency inoculation campaign with a medicine made in China.

The United States is expected to grant emergency authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine later this week, announcing on Tuesday that no concerns had been found in trial data.

Despite the vaccination news, virus restrictions continue to be reimposed — roughly 30 million people in the US state of California are now under stay-at-home orders.

And the World Health Organization has warned that successful vaccines on their own will not immediately end the crisis.

‘No specific safety concerns’

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order “to ensure that American citizens have first priority to receive American vaccines.

But he faces questions over whether the White House missed an opportunity to shore up sufficient doses in the months ahead.

President-elect Biden warned, meanwhile, that coronavirus vaccination efforts in the United States will “slow and stall” if Congress does not urgently come up with funding.

He stressed it was imperative for lawmakers to “finish the bipartisan work underway now or millions of Americans may wait months longer to get the vaccine.