The United States on Friday authorised Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for millions of doses of a second jab to be shipped across the hardest-hit country in the world.
The latest breakthrough came as many governments clamp down on socialising over Christmas and New Year, which is expected to fuel a jump in virus deaths in early 2021.
Italy on Friday announced harsh new restrictions over the holidays with many shops and all bars and restaurants closed, travel between regions banned, and only one daily outside trip per household permitted.
And parts of Sydney were heading into a fresh lockdown on Saturday, with Australian officials saying they hoped the restrictions would be enough to control a growing outbreak in time for Christmas.
With the United States now registering over 2,500 deaths a day from Covid-19, senior US officials including Vice President Mike Pence stepped up to receive early vaccinations on Friday.
Pence’s public inoculation was the most high-profile attempt yet at persuading vaccine-skeptic Americans to join a national effort to halt a pandemic that has killed at least 1.66 million people and infected more than 74 million worldwide.
President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20, announced he would take the vaccine, also in public, on Monday.
– Macron ‘slowed down’ –
In hard-hit Europe, unease mounted after Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic tested positive for Covid-19 a week after attending a European Union summit in Brussels.
The summit is believed to be where French President Emmanuel Macron caught the virus. Macron’s diagnosis has led to a host of European leaders and French officials rushing into self-isolation.
The French leader acknowledged Friday he had been “slowed down” by his infection, but insisted he was still actively involved in government business including Brexit trade talks.