Roundup: Positive news on pandemic in Italy overshadowed by slowdown in vaccine arrivals

ROME, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Italy on Monday saw its best one-day indicators for the coronavirus pandemic in weeks, but the developments were marred by the news that vaccine shipments from pharmaceutical company Pfizer would be slowed for the next week.

Italy had performed 1.12 million coronavirus vaccinations as of Sunday, making Italy the first country in the European Union to have successfully vaccinated 1.1 percent of its population.

But media reports said the vaccination campaign would be slowed by delays in the delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the main vaccine in use in Italy.

For its part, Pfizer said deliveries would return to normal by Jan. 25. But the slowdown has sparked complaints from Italians, amid accusations that the company may have diverted vaccines intended for Italy to other countries.

Codacons, a consumer and environmental protection group in Italy, on Monday filed a complaint against Pfizer and said it will petition the European Commission to sanction the company for abusing its dominant position.

Fabrizio Pregliasco, a University of Milan virologist, gave the drug company the benefit of the doubt while noting the slowdown is already causing problems.

"I hope these delays are temporary and due to production problems rather than changes in the destination of the vaccines," Pregliasco told local media Il Fatto Quotidiano. "In the hospital, the delay has already caused some problems that have resulted in our slowing down vaccination."

Domenico Arcuri, the Italian government's commissioner for the coronavirus crisis, said help could be on the way via AstraZeneca, the maker of other vaccines. He said Italy has reserved more than 40 million vaccines from the company, with 16 million expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2021.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in Italy and some other countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 237 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 64 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 15.

The vaccine worries cast a shadow over a day that has seen Italy's best overall coronavirus indicators in weeks. According to the country's Ministry of Health, there were 8,824 new infections over the past 24 hours, the second-lowest one-day total since Oct. 15.

The only day with a lower infection rate during that span -- Dec. 28, when 8,583 infections were announced -- saw a mortality figure of 445, higher than the 377 recorded Monday.

Monday's death rate was the same as on Sunday, and just the eighth time since early November the one-day total dipped below 400 lost lives.

There were nearly 15,000 new recoveries Monday, continuing a trend where recoveries outnumbered new infections by a large margin. That brought the total number of active cases to 547,058, down more than 6,300 compared to Sunday. The total number of recoveries since the start of the pandemic in Italy climbed to 1.76 million.

Official data also showed that there were 2,544 COVID-19 patients in intensive-care units on Monday, an increase of 41 from Sunday and 24 more than on Saturday.

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