Pfizer, BioNTech Pledge 2 Billion Vaccine Doses to Poor Nations

U.S. and German vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNTech on Friday pledged to deliver 2 billion doses of their vaccine to low- and middle-income nations as part of a global effort to close the vaccine gap between rich and poor nations.Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, speaking in Rome at the Global Health Summit, said the first billion doses of their vaccine will be delivered this year, and the second in 2022.U.S. pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also pledged donations of 200,000 and 100,000 doses respectively.Tentative reopeningsIn large parts of Germany on Friday, beer gardens, cafes and restaurants opened outdoor tables for the first time in months. Customers had to show a negative COVID-19 test or a vaccination certificate to gain entry. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to behave responsibly as the country begins to reopen.Also Friday, International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates said the games will open in just more than two months in Tokyo even if the city is under a state of emergency because of the pandemic.Recent opinion polls indicate that most Japanese oppose hosting the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin July 23.Coates said the polls might improve once more Japanese receive coronavirus vaccinations. Japanese officials have pledged to vaccinate the country’s elderly population by the end of July.The government in Lebanon said Friday it will allow cinemas and theaters to reopen at reduced capacity for the first time in more than a year. The development comes a day after the country recorded its lowest one-day death rate in months, with only seven fatalities.Swipe rightIn the United States, the White House COVID-19 response team said Friday that major online dating sites are pitching in to encourage more people in the United States to get vaccinated.At the response team’s Friday briefing, Andy Slavitt, senior White House adviser, told reporters that major dating sites, including Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, Match and OkCupid, are offering incentives to members to get vaccinated, including badges to display on their profiles and access to premium features.U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky reported that as of Friday, more than 60% of all Americans older than 18 have received at least one shot, and 126.6 million Americans are fully vaccinated.She said that as of Thursday, the national daily average number of COVID-19 cases for the past week fell by almost 20% to the lowest daily average since June 13, 2020. Thursday was also the second day in a row the national daily average number of cases fell below 30,000.India and ArgentinaIndia’s health ministry reported 259,591 new COVID-19 cases Friday in the previous 24 hours. The South Asian nation also reported more than 4,000 deaths.The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center says India has 26 million of the world’s 165.5 million cases. Only the United States has more cases, with 33 million.Argentina will start a strict lockdown beginning Saturday and ending May 31.”We are seeing the highest numbers of cases and deaths. We must take this critical situation seriously and not naturalize so much tragedy,” President Alberto Fernández said Thursday in a televised speech. Johns Hopkins reports that Argentina has 3.4 million COVID cases.