World Newsletter

17 Nov 2020



Moderna Inc's experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing

COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, the company said on

Monday, becoming the second U.S. drugmaker to report results that far exceed


Together with Pfizer Inc's vaccine, which is also more than 90% effective,

and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could

have two vaccines authorized for emergency use in December with as many as

60 million doses of vaccine available this year.

Next year, the U.S. government could have access to more than 1 billion

doses just from the two vaccine makers, more than needed for the country's

330 million residents.

The vaccines, both developed with new technology known as messenger RNA

(mRNA), represent powerful tools to fight a pandemic that has infected 54

million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million. The news also comes at time

when COVID-19 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the United States

and pushing some European countries back into lockdowns.

Moderna's interim analysis was based on 95 infections among trial

participants who received either a placebo or the vaccine. Of those, only

five infections occurred in those who received the vaccine, which is

administered in two shots 28 days apart.

A key advantage of Moderna's vaccine is that it does not need ultra-cold

storage like Pfizer's, making it easier to distribute. Moderna expects it to

be stable at normal fridge temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to

48°F) for 30 days and it can be stored for up to 6 months at -20C.

Pfizer's vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70C, the sort of temperature

typical of an Antarctic winter. It can be stored for up to five days at

standard refrigerator temperatures or for up to 15 days in a thermal

shipping box.

The data from Moderna's trial involving 30,000 volunteers also showed the

vaccine prevented cases of severe COVID-19, a question that still remains

with the Pfizer vaccine. Of the 95 cases in Moderna's trial, 11 were severe

and all 11 occurred among volunteers who got the placebo.

Moderna, part of the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed program, expects

to produce about 20 million doses for the United States this year, millions

of which the company has already made and is ready to ship if it gets FDA


"Assuming we get an emergency use authorization, we'll be ready to ship

through Warp Speed almost in hours," Hoge said. "So it could start being

distributed instantly."

Most side effects were mild to moderate. A significant proportion of

volunteers, however, experienced more severe aches and pains after taking

the second dose, including about 10% who had fatigue severe enough to

interfere with daily activities while another 9% had severe body aches. Most

of these complaints were generally short-lived, Moderna said.

The U.S. government has said COVID-19 vaccines will be provided free to

Americans, whether they have health insurance, are uninsured or are covered

by government health programs such as Medicare.

Moderna also said it would use its data to seek authorization in Europe and

other regions.

Europe's health regulator said on Monday it had launched a real-time

"rolling review" of Moderna's vaccine, following similar reviews of vaccines

from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.





President Donald Trump's National Security Council is preparing for "a very

professional transition," because it looks like Joe Biden has won the

election, national security adviser Robert O'Brien said in comments that

aired Monday.

His remarks stood in stark contrast to those of the president, who tweeted

falsely just before midnight Sunday, "I WON THE ELECTION," as he continued

to make baseless claims of widespread fraud. Twitter put a warning label on

the tweet, noting that "official sources have called this election


The president's top security official, known as a Trump loyalist, offered a

different view.

"Look, if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and

obviously things look that way now — we'll have a very professional

transition from the National Security Council," O'Brien said in remarks made

last week that streamed on the web Monday morning as part of a global

security forum sponsored by the Soufan Center.

States face a December 8 “safe harbor” deadline to certify their elections

and choose electors who will officially select the new president on Dec 14.





Joe Biden has warned "people may die" if his incoming presidential

administration continues to be impeded by Donald Trump.

Speaking in Delaware, the president-elect said co-ordination was needed to

tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

He called President Trump's refusal to acknowledge he lost the vote, despite

calls to do so from both sides, "totally irresponsible".

"This is not a game," former first lady Michelle Obama wrote on social


President-elect Biden has 306 votes in the electoral college, surpassing the

270 threshold needed to win.

Yet Mr Trump, a Republican, tweeted on Monday morning: "I won the Election!"

In his speech on Monday, Mr Biden said of the stalled transition: "Does

anyone understand this? It's about saving lives, for real, this is not


"More people may die if we don't co-ordinate," he added.

Calling nationwide vaccine distribution a "huge, huge undertaking", Mr Biden

said that if his team had to wait until 20 January - his presidential

inauguration - until they could begin work on the distribution programme,

they would be behind by "over a month, month and a half".





The Trump administration is expected to cut the number of U.S. troops in

Afghanistan almost in half to 2,500 by Jan. 15, a U.S. official said Monday.

The order would stop short of outgoing President Donald Trump’s goal to have

all troops withdrawn by the end of the year, which had faced opposition from

military and diplomatic advisers.

The Pentagon also expects to cut the number of troops in Iraq to 2,500, a

reduction of more than 500. The decisions follow Mr. Trump’s shakeup of the

Pentagon last week in which he installed loyalists who share his frustration

with the continued troop presence in the Middle East.

It would give Trump an accomplishment in his final weeks in office even as

he refuses to concede his election loss to Joe Biden.

The official said military leaders were told over the weekend about the

planned withdrawals and an executive order is in the works but has not yet

been delivered to commanders.





Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his government is under

pressure to recognize Israel, insisting that Islamabad would never establish

relations with the "Zionists".

Khan revealed this during an interview with a private television, where he

stated that after the recognition of Israel by Arab countries including the

United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, Islamabad is also being asked to

recognize Israel, something that his government has rejected till now.

"I have no second thought about recognizing Israel unless there is a just

settlement, which satisfies Palestines," he said.

When asked to name the countries, which have insisted on Islamabad to

recognize Israel, Khan refrained from pin pointing and opted to be silent on

the question.

"There are things we cannot say. We have good relations with them," he said.

Khan reiterated that founding father of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azad Muhammad Ali

Jinnah had refused to recognize Israel, adding: "Islamabad would continue to

follow in Jinnah's footsteps vis-a-vis Palestine."

Khan said Israel has a strong influence in the US, which he said is "another

country pressurizing him to recognize Israel".

"The pressure is because of Israel's deep impact (influence) in the US. This

influence was in fact extraordinary during the (US President Donald) Trump

stint," he said.





The Israeli military said it struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early

Sunday after militants fired two rockets from the Palestinian territory.

In a statement, the military said fighter jets, attack helicopters and tanks

hit Hamas underground infrastructure and military posts. It said two rockets

were launched into Israel, with one reaching the southern Israeli city of

Ashdod and the other stretching into central Israel.

There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side. The military

said the rockets landed in open areas.





Nevada has become the first US state to enshrine in its constitution the

right of gay couples to marry, overturning an 18-year ban on same-sex


The measure was put to voters during the recent presidential election on

November 3 and the final results were published in recent days.

Voters approved the "Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment" by 62 percent,

with 38 percent against, according to the Nevada secretary of state's


"It feels good that we let the voters decide," advocacy group Equality

Nevada president Chris Davin told NBC News. "The people said this, not

judges or lawmakers. This was direct democracy - it's how everything should


He said the initiative was important to members of the LGBTQ community, many

of whom are concerned that the new majority conservative US Supreme Court

may seek to revoke the ruling that protects same-sex marriage federally.

The new Nevada law overturns a 2002 referendum approved by voters that

defined marriage as between "a male and a female person."





Turkey’s government submitted a motion to Parliament on Monday seeking its

approval to deploy peacekeepers to monitor a ceasefire agreement between

Azerbaijan and Armenia, the state-run news agency reported.

Turkey, which threw its weight behind its ally Azerbaijan in the conflict,

has been engaged in talks with Russia for a role in monitoring the ceasefire

that ended six weeks of intense fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over

the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Russian and Turkish Defence Ministers signed a memorandum on Wednesday to

create a joint monitoring center in Azerbaijan.

The Bill submitted to Parliament requests a one-year mandate to send Turkish

peacekeepers, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would determine the

number of troops to be sent.

The motion is expected to be debated in coming days. The motion states that

civilian personnel could also be deployed as part of the peacekeeping


“It has been assessed that for the Turkish Armed Forces personnel ... to

take part in the Joint Center which Turkey and Russia will form together,

will be beneficial for the peace and welfare of the region’s people and is

necessary from the point of our national interests,” the state-run Anadolu

Agency stated from the motion.

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