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Ukraine Secures More Vaccines As Inoculation Drives Broaden

A British nurse prepares a phial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (file photo)
A British nurse prepares a phial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (file photo)

Ukraine is set to receive 12 million doses of coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Novavax, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office announced on February 5.

The news came as vaccine rollouts in the United States and other countries broadened, adding more sites and personnel, and as European countries admitted difficulties in their rollouts.

Ukraine's health minister announced the agreement on the supply of vaccines, which will be produced in India.

The first deliveries are expected in Ukraine this month, Health Minister Maxim Stepanov said.

"Twelve million doses is a good signal from our partners and this will be enough to ensure vaccination within the first months after the start of the deliveries," Zelenskiy was quoted by his office as saying.

Zelenskiy had earlier faced criticism failing to source Western-made inoculations. Last month he called on the European Union to help Ukraine source vaccines after finding itself at the back of Europe's vaccine queue.

Ukraine is also awaiting delivery of 8 million doses promised under the United Nations Covax program and up to 5 million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac jab.

Ukraine has declined to approve Russia's Sputnik V, which has been rolled out in breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.

The country of 40 million people has recorded more than 1.2 million cases and more than 24,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the European Union has faced difficulties in the rollout of the vaccination program.

Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in a joint video news conference, reaffirmed they are fully supporting the EU vaccine purchase process.

Macron said the EU hadn’t anticipated “such rapid success” of the vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna that are mostly produced in the United States.

Both vaccines have been approved in the EU, and the AstraZeneca vaccine was authorized last week.

Macron said the EU, which has ordered a supply of about 2.3 billion vaccines, has taken steps to boost production on its soil and accelerate vaccinations.

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on February 5 that a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus has become dominant in the country.

Slovak authorities sequenced all samples that tested positive across the country on February 3 and the variant originally found in Britain was detected in 74 percent of them.

Health Minister Marek Krajci has called it “an unbelievably high number.” The government plan to partly reopen schools next week has been canceled for the hardest hit counties.

Krajci said the first 20,000 AstraZeneca vaccines expected to arrive next week will be used for elementary school teachers. The country of 5.4 million has registered 5,050 confirmed deaths.

Current vaccines appear to work against the variant detected in Britain.

In the United States, which is still seeing high numbers of cases even if the overall number is trending downward, a drive to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people got a boost on February 5 with the announcement that the Pentagon will deploy about 1,000 active duty military personnel to help state vaccination centers.

The announcement came as one of New York City’s baseball stadiums opened as a COVID-19 vaccination site.

The Yankee Stadium expects to handle 15,000 people during its first week, serving residents of the surrounding neighborhoods in the Bronx, which has been badly hit by COVID-19.

Seven National Football League stadiums already are being used as mass vaccination sites, and the league on February 5 told the federal government it will make dozens more available.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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