Trials in the United States show the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is safe and 79% effective against the coronavirus, according to Britain’s Oxford University, the developers of the pharmaceutical company’s vaccine.  Oxford said in a press release Monday that the AstraZeneca vaccine is “safe and highly effective, adding to previous trial data from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa, as well as real-world impact data from the United Kingdom.” AstraZeneca said in a statement that the safety and efficacy analysis was based on 32,449 participants in the U.S. trials. “Vaccine efficacy was consistent across ethnicity and age. Notably, in participants aged 65 years and over, vaccine efficacy was 80%,” the statement said.  “The vaccine was well tolerated, and the independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) identified no safety concerns related to the vaccine,” AstraZeneca said.  Several European countries had recently stopped using the AstraZeneca because of reports that the vaccine was associated with blood clots in vaccine recipients. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), however, had recently found that the vaccine was safe and effective in the battle against the coronavirus.  The European Union is now moving to block exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Britain from a plant in the Netherlands.FILE – A member of the medical staff holds a vial of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine at the South Ile-de-France Hospital Group in Melun, in the outskirts of Paris, Feb. 8, 2021.The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center has recorded 123.2 million worldwide COVID-19 infections. The U.S. has more infections than any place else with 123.2 million cases, followed by Brazil with almost 12 million and India with 11.6 million.  Germany will likely institute another lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which would make it the latest European country enacting fresh restrictions. A draft of recommendations to be presented to German Chancellor Angela Merkel will push for lockdowns to be extended until April 18, Reuters reported Sunday. In Poland, which is seeing the highest number of daily cases since November, new measures have forced nonessential shops and other facilities to close for three weeks. Poland recorded more than 26,000 new cases Sunday and more than 350 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.  Nonessential stores have also been closed in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, where only food markets are allowed to stay open. It recorded more than 15,000 new cases Sunday and nearly 270 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. About one-third of France’s population is under lockdown after measures were imposed Friday in Paris and several regions in northern and southern parts of the country. More than 4,300 people were in intensive care units in France Saturday, the health ministry said, the most this year. About 6.1 million people in France have received their first COVID-19 shot, or just less than 12% of the adult population. But in Marseille, in the south of France, thousands of people took to the streets Sunday to celebrate carnival in defiance of pandemic restrictions.  In the United States, officials in the popular Florida tourist destination of Miami Beach extended an emergency curfew of 8 p.m. for up to three weeks after dozens were arrested Saturday. Officials say 1,000 people have been arrested in the beach town since March 1.  On Saturday, crowds of Spring Break partiers were met with pepper spray balls and SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams in the beachfront city as they defied the highly unusual 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. On February 26, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said the state is an “oasis of freedom” from coronavirus restrictions.  South Africa has sold at least a million of its AstraZeneca COVID vaccines to the African Union. The African country stopped using the AstraZeneca shots due to concerns about its efficacy against a local variant of the coronavirus.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has subsequently recommended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against variants.  The doses sold to the African Union will be distributed among 14 African countries.  Brazil is in talks with the United States to import excess doses of coronavirus vaccines, its Foreign Ministry tweeted Saturday. On Sunday, Brazil reversed a decision that required local authorities to save half their COVID-19 vaccine stockpiles for second doses, instead opting to get the first shots in as many Brazilians as possible. The U.S. has millions of doses of vaccine developed by Britain’s University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical giant that have been approved by the WHO and the EMA but not for use in the U.S. yet. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who famously told his country to “stop whining” about the country’s death from “a little flu,” has signed three measures to speed the purchase of vaccines, including those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson. 

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