(Bloomberg) — BioNTech SE may be able to produce 3 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine with its partner Pfizer Inc. next year. The companies’ vaccine has shown a high ability in lab experiments to neutralize strains first detected in Brazil, the U.K. and South Africa. New York state lowered its vaccine eligibility age to 60 from 65.
Brazil reports record number of Covid-19 deaths. The European Union will propose a certificate that could ease travel for those who have taken EU-approved shots as well as others.
In the U.S., airlines are urging the Biden administration to develop virus passports as infections spread at the slowest pace since the pandemic began almost a year ago. Maryland to relax restrictions starting Friday.
Maryland to Ease Restrictions on Businesses (6:55 a.m. HK)
Maryland will lift restrictions on most businesses beginning Friday, eliminating the 50% capacity limit that had been in place for religious facilities, retail establishments, bars, restaurants and fitness centers.
Quarantine requirements and other restrictions regarding out-of-state travel will also be lifted. Large outdoor and indoor venues will expand to 50% capacity, including conference and wedding venues, concert venues, conventions, theaters, racing facilities, and sporting venues.
Brazil Covid Deaths Hit a Record (5:13 p.m. NY)
Brazil reported a record number of deaths from coronavirus as the country rushes to seal new vaccine deals.
The Health Ministry said 1,972 died from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, pushing the total to 268,370. Confirmed cases increased by 70,764, to 11,122,429. Brazil trails only the U.S. in number of deaths globally, and ranks third in infections.
Hospitals across the country are reaching capacity, as a combination of year-end and carnival gatherings and a new, more contagious variant contribute to a spike of infections even as the virus recedes in most of the world. At the same time, a short supply of vaccines is slowing a mass immunization campaign in the country of 212 million.
BioNTech Sees Boost in Vaccine Production (4:23 p.m. NY)
BioNTech could have capacity to make 3 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine with U.S. partner Pfizer next year, the German company’s chief executive officer said, making their pioneering shot far more widely available around the world.
“In principle, we could further increase manufacturing capacity,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
Pfizer and BioNTech have committed to make 2 billion doses of their two-shot vaccine this year. Pfizer promised to ship two-thirds of the U.S.’s 300 million-dose order by the end of May. In the European Union, the partners have promised to ship at least 500 million doses this year, with an option for an additional 100 million doses.
Texas Capital to Defy Governor on Masks (3:37 p.m. NY)
When the Texas mask mandate lifts tomorrow, the state capital of Austin plans to continue requiring face coverings, directly contradicting Governor Greg Abbott’s move to reopen the second-largest U.S. state. Officials in bigger cities such as Houston have expressed displeasure with Abbott’s order but so far have stopped short of open defiance.
Minnesota Food Plant Workers Now Eligible (2:30 p.m. NY)
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday announced a larger group of Minnesotans will be eligible for vaccines, including food-processing plant workers who power an important state industry.
“This is good news, Minnesota,” Walz, a Democrat, said at a briefing. Any Minnesotan should be able to get a vaccine injection by April 30, he said.
Cargill Inc., Hormel Foods Corp., Smithfield Foods Inc., and Tyson Foods Corp. each operate food-processing plants in the state. Plant workers are susceptible to spreading the coronavirus because large groups of employees work close to each other for shifts lasting hours.
U.S. Vaccine Shipments to Rise Next Week (2:10 p.m. NY)
Pfizer and Moderna vaccine shipments to U.S. states, tribes and territories will rise next week to 15.8 million doses, from 15.2 million a week earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Shipments to pharmacies will rise to 2.7 million from 2.4 million a week earlier.
N.Y. Lowers Vaccine Eligibility to 60 (11:10 a.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would lower the age for vaccine eligibility to age 60 starting Wednesday as the state ramps up its vaccine campaign.
The governor said the state will also open up vaccine eligibility to public employees and nonprofit emergency workers as of March 17. Public-facing building workers will also be eligible, he said in a Tuesday virus briefing.
“They are essential for us to continue operating,” he said.
New York has administered nearly 6 million doses of the vaccine so far, Cuomo said. Previously eligibility was open to people 65 and older. Cuomo, 63, said he would personally make an appointment to take the vaccine now that his age group will be eligible.
EU Certificate Could Ease Travel (9:05 a.m. NY)
The European Union will propose a certificate that could ease travel for those who have taken EU-approved vaccines as well as others, like the Chinese and Russian shots, that have only received emergency national authorizations.
The “EU Covid Card/digital green certificate” will comprise three documents that will specify if the holder has gotten a vaccine and which one; the results of a coronavirus test if taken; and details on whether they have recovered from a Covid-19 infection, according to a person familiar with the European Commission’s draft regulation.
No Overseas Fans at Tokyo Olympics: Kyodo (8:37 a.m. NY)
The Japanese government decided to exclude overseas spectators from attending the Tokyo Olympics, Kyodo reported, citing officials with knowledge of the matter. The government concluded that fans from abroad aren’t possible given concerns about the virus and different variants detected in other countries.
Latvia Offers to Take Patients From Estonia (7:38 a.m. NY)
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins on Tuesday offered to take in some of neighboring Estonia’s Covid patients after its prime minister announced a lockdown and tighter restrictions to control the spread of the British strain and rising cases.
German Industry Resolves Testing Spat (7:30 a.m. NY)
Germany’s leading industry associations have resolved a spat with Chancellor Angela Merkel over Covid-19 tests and issued an appeal to companies to help expand rapid- and self-testing of employees.
“Until a vaccination offer can be made to all citizens, we want to support the testing strategy of the federal and state governments with all our energy,” four of the biggest industry lobbies, which represent more than 90% of Germany’s workers, said in a joint statement coordinated with Merkel’s administration.
Merkel last week canceled a video call with business leaders because she wanted more substantial proposals on testing workers than those initially on the table.