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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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High antibody levels from Pfizer vaccine
People in England who have received two doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are generating strong antibody responses as the shot is rolled out, researchers said on Thursday, adding that confidence in vaccines was high.

An Imperial College London survey showed 87.9% of people over the age of 80 tested positive for antibodies after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, rising to 95.5% for those under the age of 60 and 100% in those aged under 30.

Meanwhile, the first big real-world study of the Pfizer vaccine to be independently reviewed shows the shot is highly effective at preventing Covid-19.

Moderna developing booster shot for new variants
Moderna said on Wednesday it is working with U.S. government scientists to study an experimental booster shot that targets a concerning new variant of the coronavirus, and has raised its global vaccine production goal for this year by 100 million doses.

The U.S. biotech company has produced raw material for a booster shot aimed at addressing the virus variant first found in South Africa that may be more resistant to existing vaccines. It has shipped the vaccine to the U.S.

National Institutes of Health, which helped develop Moderna's current vaccine, for additional study.

Moderna is experimenting with several potential ways to combat new variants of the virus.

New variant identified in New York
A new coronavirus variant that shares some similarities with a more transmissible and intractable variant discovered in South Africa is on the rise in New York City, researchers said on Wednesday.

The new variant, known as B.1.526, was first identified in samples collected in New York in November, and by mid-February represented about 12% of cases, researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons said.

The variant was also described in research published online this week by the California Institute of Technology.

India's health workers balk at homegrown vaccine
India is struggling to convince its health and front-line workers to take a homegrown vaccine controversially approved without late-stage efficacy data, government data showed on Thursday, days ahead of a wider roll-out.

The country has vaccinated more than 10.5 million health and front-line workers since beginning its immunisation campaign on Jan. 16.

But only 1.2 million, or about 11%, of them have taken COVAXIN, the locally developed vaccine from Bharat Biotech. The remaining 9.4 million have used the vaccine licensed from AstraZeneca, according to a government online platform used to track the vaccination drive.

French cases spike
France's government on Wednesday ordered a weekend lockdown in the Dunkirk area to arrest an "alarming" rise in cases, signalling extra curbs might also be needed elsewhere as daily cases nationwide hit their highest since November.

Unlike some of its neighbours, France has resisted a new national lockdown to control more contagious variants, hoping a curfew in place since Dec. 15 can contain the pandemic.

But it reported 31,519 new infections on Wednesday, up from 25,018 a week ago and the most since mid-November.
(Reuters)

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