New hope in Covid crisis as US approves third vaccine
WASHINGTON, Feb 28: The Covid-battered United States authorized Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for emergency use Saturday, offering a glimmer of hope as Britain said farewell to fundraising war veteran Captain Tom Moore who died of the virus earlier this month.
US President Joe Biden hailed his country's announcement of its third available vaccine but said the nation's battle was far from over.
"This is exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development in our efforts to bring an end to the crisis," Biden said in a statement, but warned Americans "cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable."
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 news comes following passage in the House of Representatives of a vast $1.9 trillion package -- including $1,400 payouts to most Americans and billions of dollars to boost vaccine delivery, help schools reopen and fund local governments -- which will now move to the Senate.
The bill is on track to be the second largest US stimulus ever, illustrating the huge effort needed to tackle the multiple crises unleashed by a pandemic that has killed more than half a million in the United States, with the toll climbing by another 1,849 fatalities in 24 hours on Saturday.
Meanwhile Europeans continue to live under some of the world's strictest restrictions -- and in France they just got tougher.
Two cities, northern Dunkirk and southern Nice, locked down over the weekends to halt the spread.
"We have to do something as Covid is getting worse in the region," Charlie Kentish, a British resident taking an early morning walk in Nice, told AFP. He was resigned to spending his weekends playing video games with his teenage children.
In Britain, 100-year-old war veteran Tom Moore helped lift the Covid-induced gloom last year by staging fundraising events including completing 100 lengths of his back garden using a walking frame.
After his campaign went viral, he raised nearly £33 million ($45 million, 37.4 million euros) for healthcare charities, and was knighted for his efforts.
His funeral, a small family ceremony, was shown live on national television and he was honored with a flypast of a World War II plane.
The rollout of vaccines has improved the prospects greatly for many older people, with Britain excelling in its distribution to vulnerable groups. -AFP