EU expects to take delivery of 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of September, agrees on digital certificate for travelers

The European Union, which has been lagging in getting its 450 million citizens vaccinated against COVID-19, expects to take delivery of 1 billion vaccine doses by the end of September, propelling it past its goal of inoculating at least 70% of its population by late summer.

The document did not include either Germany’s CureVac

or France’s Sanofi

which are also developing vaccines and pushing to get them authorized. The EU has signed contracts with those companies, too, meaning that if they succeed in gaining emergency authorization the 27 member states would have even more supply.

The news came as EU leaders at a summit agreed to introduce a digital COVID-19 certificate proving vaccination on July 1, a move they hope will allow tourism to restart in force this summer.

The EU has said it would open its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from other regions. The certificate, which will include a scannable QR code that will link to digital signatures on EU servers, will show whether an individual has been fully vaccinated or has immunity from COVID after contracting the virus, AFP reported.

EU leaders also committed to sharing vaccines with other countries, a pledge first made at a G-20 summit in Rome last week. The EU has ordered up to 4.4 billion vaccine doses over the next two years and has said it would share up to 100 million doses by year-end.

That comes a day after the World Health Organization kicked off its annual meeting with a stinging critique of wealthier countries for allowing a “scandalous inequity’ in COVID-19 vaccines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a small group of countries that make and buy the bulk of available vaccines “control the fate of the rest of the world.”

Tedros continued with that theme on Tuesday on social media.

U.S. health officials and the State Department on Monday warned Americans against travel to Japan because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, which is preparing to host the Olympics in just two months, the Associated Press reported.

The twin alerts don’t ban U.S. citizens from visiting the country, but they could have an impact on insurance rates for travelers and may factor into decisions by Olympic athletes and spectators as to whether to compete in or attend the delayed 2020 Summer Games, which are due to start in July.

“Travelers should avoid all travel to Japan,” the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new COVID-19 update. “Because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan.”

Japanese surveys have consistently shown that many people are worried about their country’s hosting the event during a pandemic, but Prime Minister Yoshide Suga has pledged to forge ahead.

The U.S. vaccination drive continues with the CDC vaccine tracker showing that 130.6 million people are now fully vaccinated, equal to 39.3% of the population. Almost 164 million Americans have had at least one dose. Among adults aged 18 and older, roughly 50% are now fully vaccinated.

Among Americans 65 and older, 40.5 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 74% of that group. Almost 47 million people in that age bracket have received a first jab, covering 85.4% of that population.

A Word from the Experts: Rick Bright wants to wipe out this virus — but it’s going to take better COVID-19 vaccines, distributed to 70% of the world’s population

In other news:

• Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed legislation banning private business and public entities, including schools, from requiring proof of COVID vaccination to provide services, according to local media. Alabama’s COVID-19 caseload, like the rest of the country’s, has eased in the last few months. According to BamaTracker, which collects data on the outbreak in the state, the seven-day daily average of cases was 200, the lowest number reported since April 8, 2020, near the dawn of the pandemic.

• Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was effective in children aged 12 to 17 in a new study, a finding that could clear the way for a second vaccine for use in adolescents, Dow Jones Newswires reported. The Moderna vaccine induced immune responses among children that were comparable to those seen in a study of adults last year. There were no cases of symptomatic COVID-19 among vaccine recipients, suggesting 100% vaccine efficacy in adolescents, though overall very few among the 3,700 children in the study got sick. Based on the results, Moderna plans in early June to request that regulators in the U.S. and other countries authorize the use of its vaccine in children aged 12 to 17 years.

Vivek Murthy, speaking at The Future of Everything Festival, says that “we’re moving in the right direction” on key metrics of vaccination and infection rates.

• A breath test that aims to detect COVID-19 in under one minute has received provisional authorization from Singapore’s health authorities, the National University of Singapore, or NUS, said in a statement, MarketWatch’s Lina Saigol reported. Breathonix, the NUS spinoff that developed the rapid test, said it is now working with the Singapore Ministry of Health to run a deployment trial of the technology at one of the city-state’s border points with Malaysia. The breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current, compulsory COVID-19 antigen rapid test.

Read: Value of COVID-19 testing shrinks as vaccines beat back virus

• Oxygen shortages are causing havoc in dozens of countries struggling with surging COVID-19 cases and threatening the “total collapse’ of healthcare systems, the Guardian reported. The paper cited a Bureau of Investigative Journalism analysis that found 19 countries, including India, Argentina, Iran, Nepal, the Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador and South Africa, are most at risk after seeing a huge spike in demand since March. Those countries have vaccinated less than 20% of their populations.

• Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, reinstated COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday as authorities scrambled to find the missing link in a fresh outbreak, prompting New Zealand to pause a “travel bubble” with the state of Victoria, Reuters reported. Amid worries that the cluster, which has grown to nine cases in two days, could spark a major outbreak, Victoria imposed social restrictions and made face masks mandatory in hotels, restaurants and other indoor venues. The outbreak comes after a roughly three-month spell with zero cases.

See: COVID-19 pandemic was a ‘preventable disaster,’ made worse by a lack of global coordination and dithering, independent panel finds

Read now: Will corporate greed prolong the COVID-19 pandemic?

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 167.4 million on Tuesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll rose above 3.47 million.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases with 33.1 million and deaths with 590,698, although cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all falling as more Americans become vaccinated. 

India is second worldwide with 26.9 million cases, and third with 307,321 deaths, but those numbers are understood to be greatly undercounted, given a shortage of tests.

Brazil is third in cases with 16.1 million and second in deaths with 449,858.

Mexico is fourth by fatalities with 221,695 and 2.4 million cases.

The U.K. has 4.5 million cases and 128,001 deaths, the fifth-highest in the world and most of any country in Europe.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 102,892 confirmed cases and 4,846 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.

What’s the economy saying?

Home-price gains continue to accelerate, reflecting the significant imbalance between the supply and demand for housing across the U.S., MarketWatch’s Jacob Passy reported.

The index of home prices across 20 large cities increased at yearly pace of 13.3% in March, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price index. On a monthly basis, home prices were up 1.6%.

“The market’s strength is broadly based: all 20 cities rose, and all 20 gained more in the 12 months ended in March than they had gained in the 12 months ended in February,” Craig J. Lazzara, managing director and global head of index investment strategy at S&P DJI, said in the report.

The separate national index, which measures home prices across the country, displayed a similar 13.2% gain over the past year, which equates to the highest annual gain since December 2005.

“House-price growth over the prior year clocked in at more than twice the rate of growth observed in the first quarter of 2020, just before the effects of the pandemic were felt in housing markets,” Lynn Fisher, deputy director of FHFA’s division of research and statistics, said in the report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

were flat Tuesday after shedding early gains.

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