World

Biden hails approval of third vaccine, says battle is not over

US authorises Johnson & Johnson's jab; Thailand kicks off inoculation campaign

WASHINGTON US President Joe Biden hailed his country's announcement of its third available vaccine but said the nation's battle was not over.

"This is exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development in our efforts to bring an end to the crisis," Mr Biden said in a statement, but warned Americans "cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable".

"Though we celebrate today's news, I urge all Americans - keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced and keep wearing masks," Mr Biden said.

"As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse."

The US authorised Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) vaccine for emergency use on Saturday, offering another glimmer of hope. The single-shot J&J vaccine is highly effective at preventing severe Covid-19, including against newer variants, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said before giving it a green light.

The move is expected to pave the way for more countries approving the J&J vaccine for emergency use.

In South-east Asia, Thailand kicked off its inoculation campaign yesterday, with Cabinet ministers, health officials and medical professionals among the first to receive vaccinations.

The first doses of vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, were given to Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also the Health Minister, among others at an infectious diseases institute on the outskirts of Bangkok.

"I hope that the vaccination will result in people being safe from the spread of Covid-19 and it allows Thailand to return to normalcy as soon as possible," Mr Anutin said afterwards.

Thailand received its first 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine and 117,00 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine last week. Thailand is expected to take delivery of a further 1.8 million doses of CoronaVac in March and April.

PHILIPPINES

The Philippines yesterday received its first batch of Covid-19 vaccine doses in a shipment donated by China, a day before it was due to roll out a national inoculation campaign.

President Rodrigo Duterte attended a ceremony to mark the arrival of the initial 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac, which were delivered by a Chinese military aircraft. The Philippines is due to receive another 25 million doses of CoronaVac in batches this year.

An initial shipment of 525,600 doses of the vaccine developed by Britain's AstraZeneca was expected to arrive today.

The Philippines has South-east Asia's second-biggest Covid-19 outbreak at more than half a million infections and over 10,000 deaths, but it is the last nation in the region to begin an inoculation programme. - AFP, REUTERS

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