Coronavirus update, March 12, 2021: Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine approved for use in EU

Coronavirus testing in companies to last at least until May, Czech-developed pneumonia drug has started clinical trials. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 12.03.2021 09:35:00 (updated on 12.03.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved for use in EU

The European Commission approved the conditional use in the European Union of the COVID-19 vaccine from a subsidiary the American company Johnson & Johnson. The EU executive announced this two hours after the vaccine received a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). EU countries will start using the fourth COVID-19 vaccine from April, when the company wants to start distributing it.

“It only requires a single dose, which takes us another step closer to achieving our collective goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by the end of summer," President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said.

With the conditional market authorization, 200 million doses can be delivered to the EU starting in the second quarter of 2021. The contract allows member states to purchase an additional 200 million doses.  The vaccine will be given in one dose to adults aged 18 years and older. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the vaccine would arrive in the country in April, and the Czech Republic has ordered 2 million doses. The vaccine was developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Police, firefighters get preferential vaccination

The Czech police and firefighters can now register for coronavirus vaccination, as the government approved their classification within the critical infrastructure level, server Deník N reported. Under the original plan, police were only inoculated after the elderly aged 65-69 or chronic patients. The Health Ministry has confirmed to the server that the government council for health risks had approved the vaccination of up to 26,000 policemen, which is the number of those who can be used to implement the measures while on duty. They will be vaccinated in the health facilities of the Interior Ministry, thanks to which they will not increase the queues of the people who wait for vaccination.

Coronavirus testing in companies to last at least until May

Testing for coronavirus in companies will be necessary at least until the end of May, Health Minister Jan Blatný said in the Chamber of Deputies in response to a question from pirate MP Martin Jiránek.

"It is definitely necessary to count on the months of the testing. At least April, May. Testing will have to continue, even if the situation improves, as sophisticated prevention, as an early warning system, if something starts to happen badly," Blatný said.

So far, testing in companies shows very similar results to tests in common sampling points, about 2 percent of samples are positive, Blatný later told reporters in the Chamber of Deputies. Hundreds of people who would otherwise have gone to work have already been caught testing employees, he added.

Large companies to complete first round of testing

Companies with more than 250 employees have to complete the first round of mandatory coronavirus testing today. It was officially launched on March 3. Employees should be tested once every seven days. All employees who come to the company, including those on a work agreement, must undergo tests. Testing is not mandatory for people working from home. Medium-sized companies with 50 to 249 employees began March 5, and must complete it by Monday.

Czech-developed pneumonia drug in clinical trials

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, now in Israel, said that Czech scientists developing an anti-COVID drug would meet the authors of a similar substance in Israel. "My delegation includes Professor [Martina] Vašáková who, along with other teams of our scientists, has developed a similar drug that is in the finals of approval in the State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL). It is available in tablets, but can also be inhaled," Babis said. Vašáková, head of the lung clinic at Prague’s Thomayer Hospital, told news server iDnes that it is a bazedoxifene substance. Clinical trials began March 5. The study will evaluate the safety and effectiveness as a treatment for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

No measures planned against AstraZeneca vaccine

The AstraZeneca anti-COVID vaccine batches that Denmark and Norway temporarily stopped using due to blood clots in some inoculated have not been in the Czech Republic and the State Drugs Control Institute (SÚKL) does not plan any special measures. Health Minister Jan Blatný told journalists in the Chamber of Deputies that no such complication occurred here, and there is no reason to halt the vaccine's use. Danish authorities said it is not possible to determine a link between the vaccine and the blood clots. Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke stressed that the country temporarily halted of its use is only a precautionary measure before the cases are thoroughly investigated.

Many doctors still infected with COVID

Some 1,390 Czech health personnel, slightly fewer than a week ago, were infected with COVID-19 in the past week, according to the data the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS) released. There are about 100 doctors and 600 nurses and other personnel each among the latest infected. Currently, 3,134 health personnel are infected. Of them, there are 338 doctors, while the rest is divided roughly evenly into nurses and other health personnel such as lab technicians and pharmacists. In the past three weeks, the number of the infected has been ranging around 1,400 a week.

Czech Republic receives 40,000 COVID tests from Saxony

The Czech State Material Reserves Administration (SSHR) received 40,000 test kits for COVID-19 donated by Saxony on the Petrovice border crossing, SSHR head Pavel Švagr said. Bavaria promised to give the Czech Republic the same number of tests, but the date is not known yet. Bavarian Minister-President Markus Soder and his Saxony counterpart Michael Kretschmer promised to give the rapid tests for COVID in early March. Last week, the German states of Saxony, Bavaria and Thuringia donated 15,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to the most coronavirus inflicted Karlovy Vary Region, west Bohemia.

New COVID-19 cases dropping, R number lowest since end of January

There were 11,083 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, which is about 3,500 fewer than last week, and fewer than on Tuesday and Wednesday. Currently, there are 8,675 people with COVID-19 in hospitals, or 59 fewer patients than on Wednesday. Of these, 1,940 of them are in serious condition. The PES index remained at 73 for the fourth day in a row. The R number dropped to 0.91, the lowest since Jan. 25. The Health Ministry states that the total capacity of the hospital inpatient and intensive care system is beginning to approach its limit.

Latest COVID-19 data from the Czech Ministry of Health (March 12, 2021)

  • New cases 11,083
  • Deaths 22,865
  • Currently hospitalized 8,675
  • PCR tests performed 5,744,249
  • Antigen tests performed 3,646,366
  • Reported vaccinations 999,395
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