Biden receives COVID vaccine on live TV
US President-elect Joe Biden received the COVID-19 vaccine live on TV in a campaign to boost Americans' confidence in the jabs.
The 78-year-old incoming president had the Pfizer vaccine at the Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware. His wife Jill Biden received the shot earlier, the presidential transition team said.
Biden told Americans "there's nothing to worry about" when they get vaccinated and that in the meantime they should keep wearing masks and "listen to the experts".
They were the latest high-profile political figures publicly joining the first wave of vaccinations aimed at stopping a pandemic that has killed almost 318,000 Americans.
Vice President Mike Pence received his vaccination last week but outgoing President Donald Trump still has not.
The Republican leader - who has become consumed by pushing conspiracy theories that his election loss to Biden was the result of mass fraud - cites the natural immunity he is believed to already have after recovering from a bout of coronavirus.
However, he has done little, even in terms of issuing statements, to support the campaign to overcome Americans' vaccine scepticism. His wife, Melania Trump, has also been largely absent from the issue.
For Biden, who will be the oldest president ever to take office on January 20, this was the first shot in the two-stage Pfizer vaccine. He said he was "looking forward" to the follow-up.
Biden praised "the scientists and the people who put this together - frontline workers, people who were the ones who actually did the clinical work." He called medical workers "amazing and incredible." Biden also had some rare praise for the Trump administration, which he said "deserves some credit" for overseeing record-speedy development and production of vaccines.
But Biden, who spoke through a double mask, cautioned that there was still a long way to go before the inoculations can really halt the virus' spread.
"It's worth stating that, you know, this is just the beginning," he said. "It's going to take time." "In the meantime," he said, "I hope people listen to all the experts … talking about the need to wear masks" during the holidays.
"If you don't have to travel, don't travel. It's really important."
It came as a US hospital temporarily halted the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine after four staff members experienced unexpected side effects.
The Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Illinois, put a stop to issuing the Pfizer jab after four employees experienced reactions, including one who had a severe allergic reaction but has now recovered.
The handful of reports about side-effects came as more than 250,000 people received the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine around the US on Saturday morning. The hospital said it had resumed vaccines after a thorough investigation.
'OUT OF CONTROL'
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a crisis meeting over the UK's escalating COVID crisis, as a growing number of countries banned flights from Britain over a new highly infectious strain of the illness, which is "out of control".
Mr Johnson held the emergency meeting with ministers after the announcement of the potentially fast-spreading new coronavirus variant necessitated a drastic border shutdown.
The new variant, which was first identified in England, has resulted in British travellers being cut off from much of Europe and other parts of the world as countries imposed urgent restrictions on travel from the UK in attempt to prevent the new strain from spreading globally.
France has announced a temporary ban on all travel - and accompanied freight - causing more economic hardship for UK exporters who trade with Europe.
In the chaotic pre-Christmas delays, road haulage is backed up from the key port of Dover in the southeast of England, and there are not growing concerns about food and medicine shortages in the UK at a critical time.
England's M20 motorway has been partially closed to "avoid gridlock" in the area surrounding the Eurotunnel.
France is scrambling to implement a European-wide health protocol that will allow freight to start flowing again.
As of Monday, dozens of countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas have announced travel bans or restrictions for the UK.
The European countries to close their borders to the UK include Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and the Republic of Ireland.
Greece now requires travellers from Britain to be tested for the virus or quarantine.
Hong Kong was the first in Asia to restrict British travellers, stopping all passenger flights from the UK from Tuesday.
Canada announced a travel ban from midnight Sunday for at least 72 hours.
In Latin America, Argentina, Chile and Colombia have suspended direct flights to and from the UK, and El Salvador has banned anyone entering the country from Britain.
So far in the Middle East, flights from the UK to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel have been halted.
It has not yet been determined if Australia will close its borders to the UK.
HOW CONTAGIOUS IS NEW COVID STRAIN?
A new strain of COVID-19 is spreading across the UK - emerging barely a week after the vaccine was rolled out.
Health chiefs reveal the new variant of coronavirus has caused more than 1,000 cases so far, mostly in South East England, with experts wondering if the vaccine can beat it.
According to The Sun, the mutant strain has been named VUI - 202012/01.
It was first identified in September, according to scientists at COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK), who have been working with Public Health England (PHE).
The first case was found in Kent on September 20, followed by London the next day, according to a report on behalf of COG-UK.
The strain accounts for over 60 per cent of new infections in London, according to Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific Adviser, up from 28 per cent in early November.
The South East is currently fighting an uphill battle with the disease, and has some the highest number of cases in the UK.
The region, including London, was put under a new Tier 4 level on Sunday in response to new evidence the sprain can spread faster, in effect cancelling Christmas for millions.
The new strain may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible, according to early analysis.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Britons at a Downing Street briefing on Saturday night the new strain could increase the R rate by 0.4 or more.
The R rate is the number of people an infected person passes the disease on to, and is currently 1.1 to 1.2. It must be kept below 1 in order for the outbreak to shrink.
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the UK has informed the World Health Organisation that the new variant coronavirus can spread more rapidly.
He said the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), a subgroup of SAGE, "now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly".
FURY OVER CANCELLED CHRISTMAS
A senior Tory MP has accused the government of deliberately waiting until parliament was no longer sitting to cancel Christmas for millions, as backbench anger over tougher restrictions grows.
Numerous Tory MPs are furious about the lack of notice for the new measures, and no available avenues to vote against them.
"I suspect the government knew they were going to cancel Christmas on Wednesday and Thursday when they were still telling the House of Commons they planned to press ahead," Sir Charles Walker told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.
He has called for Matt Hancock, the health secretary, to resign, but Mr Hancock said: "I know that Charles is very upset at the measures that we've had to bring in, and he has been throughout … But unfortunately these measures are absolutely necessary to save lives."
Mr Hancock told Sky News that the government "didn't have time to recall parliament at the point of decision" after introducing the rules a day after seeing updated scientific evidence. But he said: "There will be a vote after the fact when parliament comes back in January."
Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of "gross negligence" yesterday (Sunday) as he stepped up his attack on the government's handling of the pandemic.
The Labour leader said it had been "blatantly obvious last week that the prime minister's plan for a free-for-all over Christmas was a risk too far", and that Mr Johnson had once again waited until "the eleventh hour" to act.
EU VACCINE WINS BACKING OF REGULATOR
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 has won the backing of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), clearing the way for incoluations to start before year's end.
It comes as the European continent is truggling with rising case numbers and deaths and the UK battles a new, strong strain of the virus.
The endorsement of the vaccine was announced on Monday, local time.
The Amsterdam-based regulator brought the decision forward by eight days under pressure from EU states, after Britain and the US approved the jab more quickly.
"It is a significant step forward in our fight against this pandemic, said Emer Cooke, executive director of the agency. "This is really a historic scientific achievement."
Originally published as Biden receives COVID vaccine on live TV