US COVID-19 cases surpass 11 million as UK begins major vaccine trial

COVID-19 cases in the United States have now surpassed 11 million, with hospital admissions at record levels.

On average, more than 1,000 people a day are dying with the virus, and the overall death toll is close to 250,000.

According to BBC, in view of these rising numbers, Michigan and Washington are the latest US states to bring in strict measures to try and curb the spread of COVID-19.

High schools and colleges are to halt on-site teaching and restaurants are prohibited from offering indoor dining in Michigan from Wednesday.

Indoor restaurant dining is also banned in Washington State, and gyms, cinemas, theatres and museums will close.

The Trump administration struck an optimistic note on Friday, saying it hoped to distribute 20 million doses of an approved vaccine in December, and for each month after that although vaccines have yet to get official approval.

But aides to President-elect Joe Biden said the White House’s refusal to facilitate a presidential transition means his team is being excluded from planning around a vaccination campaign that will be a priority for Mr Biden.

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“Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power we’re going to have on January 20,” the president-elect’s chief of staff Ron Klain was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Klain said the Biden team would nonetheless start talking to vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer.

Meanwhile, a major trial of a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 has launched in the UK the third such trial in the country.

The jab designed by the Belgian company Janssen – uses a genetically modified common cold virus to train the immune system.

It comes a week after preliminary results showed another vaccine offered 90 per cent protection.

However, many types of vaccine are likely to be needed to end the pandemic.

The success of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has caused global excitement. However, it has not yet been approved for use and we still do not know how well it works in the elderly or how long immunity lasts.

The hunt for COVID-19 vaccines continues as a different approach may yet be better, or better in some age groups, and one company will struggle to immunise the planet.

“It is really important we pursue many different vaccines from many different manufactures,” said Prof Saul Faust, the director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, who will run the trial.

He added: “We just don’t know how each of these vaccines is going to behave and we can’t be certain vaccine supply will be efficient and secure from one manufacturer.”

The trial has started the job of recruiting 6,000 people in the UK. Other countries will join the effort to bring the total up to 30,000.

Half of the volunteers will be given two doses of the vaccine around two months apart.

Janssen already has one large scale trial of its vaccine in which volunteers get one dose. This trial will see if two gives a stronger and longer-lasting immunity.

It could take six to nine months before the results are available.


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