Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has hailed the creation of the first Coronavirus vaccine with regulatory approval, as she met online yesterday with the founders of BioNTech.
BioNTech is the small German firm behind the breakthrough drug.
“When we see how many people are currently dying from the Coronavirus, then, we know how much it can save lives,’’ Merkel said at the beginning of the meeting.
Referring to Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the couple that runs BioNTech, Merkel said she was “incredibly” proud that Germany has such researchers.
The young, Mainz-based company, which is working with U.S. Pharma giant Pfizer to develop and deliver the vaccine, has been put very quickly “into the world spotlight,’’ Merkel said.
The vaccine, which is based on mRNA technology that draws on the genetic code of the Coronavirus to train the body’s immune system, has been found to be 95 per cent effective in clinical trials.
Merkel was joined by Health Minister, Jens Spahn and Research Minister Anja Karliczek for the video conference with Sahin and Tureci.
The government has not specified what exactly the participants would discuss during the rest of the meeting.
Germans may be able to receive a Coronavirus vaccination from next week.
The European Medicines Agency has said it will try to give BioNTech/Pfizer’s vaccine the green light on Monday, eight days earlier than it had originally planned.
The country has been busy setting up hundreds of vaccination centres, many of them in repurposed sports stadiums and conference halls.
Germany’s 16 states are preparing for vaccinations to begin on Dec. 27, the city government in Berlin revealed on Wednesday evening.
The vaccine is already being administered in Britain, the U.S., and Canada following emergency approval procedures by their national regulators.
Mexico, Ecuador, and Chile have also given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine the nod of approval.
Germany is currently recording high daily death tolls, putting pressure on authorities to start vaccinating swiftly.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the National Agency for Disease Control, reported 698 new deaths yesterday, the second-highest toll since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
A record number of 952 deaths were recorded last Wednesday, although that figure may have been inflated due to a delay in reporting in Saxony, currently the country’s worst-hit state.
Over 1.4 million people are known to have caught the virus in Germany, 24,125 of whom had died as of yesterday.
Key Suspect In Haitian President’s Murder Extradited To US
Rodolphe Jaar, a key suspect in the murder of former Haitian President Jovenel Moise, was yesterday extradited to the United States from the Dominican Republic, media reported.
Earlier, media reported that Jaar, a Haitian businessman and convicted drug trafficker, was arrested in the Dominican Republic.
On Wednesday, the suspect was detained by United States federal agents in Miami upon his arrival from the Dominican Republic, the Miami Herald newspaper reported.
Moise was shot dead at his residence on July 7, 2021, while his wife sustained injuries and subsequently received medical treatment in the United States.
Haitian authorities have detained over 40 suspects in Moise’s assassination, including 18 Colombian citizens and five United States citizens.
Otto Warmbier’s Family Awarded $240,000
The family of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was detained in North Korea for 17 months and died in 2017 shortly after being returned to the United States in a coma, was awarded more than $240,000 in seized assets from Pyongyang, a New York federal court ruled.
Why it matters: The payment is part of a $500 million wrongful death lawsuit, in which Warmbier’s family alleged that North Korea took him hostage, tortured him and was responsible for his death.
Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student at the time, travelled to North Korea in 2015, where he was arrested and accused of stealing a propaganda poster from a restricted area of his hotel.
After publicly confessing to the crime with a script that some experts have said was likely drafted by North Korean officials, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
After a total of 17 months in captivity, he was flown back to the United States on June 13 with severe brain damage that North Korea attributed, without evidence, to botulism, and he died six days later in a Cincinnati hospital.
A federal judge in December, 2018 ruled that North Korea was responsible for Warmbier’s death and ordered Pyongyang to pay his family $500 million.
The big picture: The $240,000 awarded by the Northern District Court of New York last week was seized from the country’s Korea Kwangson Banking Corp after the government and bank did not respond to multiple court orders and notices.
‘Why Schumer Picked A Filibuster Fight He Couldn’t Win’
Chuck Schumer doesn’t typically lead his caucus into losing votes that divide Democrats. He made an exception for election reform.
The Senate majority leader has run a 50-50 Senate for a year now, longer than anyone else. The whole time, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have consistently communicated to Schumer that he wouldn’t get their votes to weaken the filibuster, no matter the underlying issue. But his decision to force the vote on the caucus anyway – and get 48 Democrats on the record for a unilateral rules change dubbed “the nuclear option” – will go down as one of Schumer’s riskiest moves as leader.
The New Yorker was a defender and wielder of the filibuster while serving as minority leader during Donald Trump’s presidency. But Democrats’ year of work on writing elections and voting legislation – and GOP opposition to an effort designed to undo state-level ballot restrictions – turned Schumer into a proponent of scrapping the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, at least for this bill.
He and most of his members have endorsed what they see as a limited change to chamber rules. Even so, Schumer has set the table for a future majority with a slightly bigger margin, whether it’s Democratic or Republican, to follow through where he fell short and perhaps go further.
Schumer gave Manchin months of space to work on a compromise elections bill, despite activists pushing him to move quicker. The leader’s insistence on a vote that will split his caucus has only trained more ire on the West Virginian and Sinema of Arizona, whom he needs to execute the rest of President Joe Biden’s agenda. Yet Schumer says he had no choice.
“We sent our best emissary to talk to the Republicans. That was Joe Manchin. And we gave him months,” Schumer said in an interview on Wednesday. “The epiphany that occurred on a rules change? He didn’t even get any bites.”
Though social spending, coronavirus relief and infrastructure have at times consumed the Senate this Congress, no topic has riveted Democrats like voting and election reform. Schumer designed Democrats’ first version of the bill “S. 1” – denoting it as the party’s top priority. Even when senators were digging into other legislation, Schumer was still maneuvering on elections, convening weekly meetings with a small group of senators for months.
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