Britain is set to administer the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, with the NHS giving top priority to vaccinating the over-80s, frontline healthcare workers and care home staff and residents.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept at -70C (-94F) and only lasts five days in a regular fridge. For that reason, it will first be administered in 50 hospitals. About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week.

Separately, Indonesia received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from China on Sunday, President Joko Widodo said, as the government prepares a mass inoculation programme. The vaccine still needs to be evaluated by the country’s food and drug agency (BPOM) while his administration prepares to distribute it across the vast archipelago of 270 million people, Jokowi said.

Military to help with COVID surge in South Korea and Japan

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday ordered the government to mobilise every available resource to track infections and to expand testing by deploying the military and more people from the public service, presidential Blue House spokesman Chung Man-ho told a briefing, as the country struggled to control its latest and largest wave of infections.

Moon said testing sites should operate longer hours to allow people working to get tested at their convenience and more drive-through testing facilities should be set up. The positive rate for the latest batch of tests was about 4.2%, compared to the year’s average of 1.2%, according to the KDCA.

Military moves were afoot in Japan as well, where chief government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said on Monday that Self-Defense Forces nurses were preparing to be deployed to Osaka and Hokkaido to help treat a surge in coronavirus infections as soon as the two prefecture governments request it.

Melbourne welcomes first international flight in 5 months

Australia’s second-largest city of Melbourne welcomed its first international passenger flight in five months on Monday, an arrival that will test the state of Victoria’s revamped hotel quarantine system.

More than 20,000 infections were recorded in Victoria earlier this year when hotel staff contracted the virus from people returning from overseas. The outbreak has been widely blamed on failures of private contractors to follow protocol.

The new system will greet Australians arriving on a flight from Sri Lanka, who will now no longer be allowed to leave their rooms under the new hotel quarantine restrictions. With hundreds of people expected to arrive in Victoria each week, state authorities have said police officers will now enforce stricter standards.

Emergency use requested for vaccines in India

Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume, has sought emergency use authorisation in the country for AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, according to several reports in Indian media, citing PTI.

The move comes close on the heels of Pfizer Inc applying for a similar authorisation of its coronavirus vaccine in India on Saturday.

Serum’s application stated that data from four clinical studies, two in the UK and one each in Brazil and India, showed that the vaccine, Covishield, was highly effective against severe COVID-19 infections, the report said. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is logistically feasible for distribution in India since it could be stored at two to eight degrees Celsius.

Reuters

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