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World

EU secures extra vaccines; Republicans to meet Biden over Covid relief plan

  • Deputy health minister Erlan Kiyasov said he didn't "feel any sort of discomfort" after receiving a shot.
01 Feb, 2021

BRUSSELS: European Union efforts to secure Covid-19 vaccines received a much-needed boost after AstraZeneca promised to increase deliveries, while US Republicans were set to meet President Joe Biden to try and build bipartisan support for a huge national relief plan.

British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca will increase shipments of its vaccine to the EU by 30 percent, said European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen Sunday, as the bloc struggles to get its mass inoculation programme up and running.

AstraZeneca had had previously said it could deliver only a quarter of the doses originally promised to Brussels for the first quarter of the year, sparking outrage and accusations it was giving preferential treatment to Britain.

In the US, ten Republican senators were set to meet Biden on Monday to present an alternative to his $1.3 trillion relief plan, arguing that a scaled-down approach could garner the bipartisan support he has said he seeks.

Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, said that she had joined the group to present their own $600 billion package to help steer the world's worst-hit country out of historic health and economic crises.

The virus is known to have infected more than 102 million people so far -- with over 2.2 million deaths -- and countries are scrambling to vaccinate their populations and lift economy-crippling restrictions.

Kazakhstan began its campaign Monday, with top health officials receiving Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in front of reporters.

Deputy health minister Erlan Kiyasov said he didn't "feel any sort of discomfort" after receiving a shot.

Also getting vaccinated in front of the cameras was the leader of the Maldives, as the tropical archipelago began its own rollout using doses donated from India.

South Africa, meanwhile, was poised to take possession of a first shipment of 20 million AstraZeneca/Oxford doses.

Africa has fallen behind in the global vaccine scramble as wealthier nations have been accused of bulk-buying doses directly from manufacturers.

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