World Coronavirus Dispatch: Iran's vaccination drive mired in geopolitics

Iran refused to buy any vaccines from the Western nations including US and UK
Covid impact: Malaysia's GDP contracts 5.6% in 2020

Malaysia recorded its biggest annual contraction in at least 22 years as strict measures to contain the coronavirus stalled the economy. The GDP plunged 3.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, marking a third consecutive quarterly drop for the country. Led by weak consumption and investments, almost all sectors in the economy witnessed a decline, barring manufacturing in the foruth quarter. The GDP for the full year fell 5.6 per cent. In the second quarter of 2020, the economy fell as much as 17 per cent, but recovered in the third quarter to register a decline of 2.7 per cent. Commenting on the outlook going forward, the country's central bank governor expressed optimism that the country would do well in 2021. "We expect the Malaysian economy to recover in 2021 given the improvement in global demand, with the rollout of vaccines boosting consumer and business sentiments," she said. Read here

Let's look at the global statistics

Global infections: 107,339,393

Change over yesterday: 418,089

Global deaths: 2,354,421

Nations with most cases: US (27,285,656), India (10,871,294), Brazil (9,659,167), United Kingdom (3,996,833), Russia (3,968,228).

Geopolitics cloud Iran’s vaccination drive

Iran's vaccination programme is being questioned by many local experts and scientists even as it is pressing ahead with the incoulation for frontline and health workers. It is vaccinating the medical staff with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine that has an efficacy of around 91 per cent in preventing the disease. Iran refused to buy any vaccines from the Western nations including US and UK. Rather, it is relying on countries like India, China, Russia and WHO-led Covax initiative to get more shots and meet the domestic demand. With one of the highest death count in the middle-east region, the country's vaccine strategy has been met with severe backlash from experts and the public in general. To counter the narrative, Iran is also ramping up efforts to make home-grown vaccines. Read here

Coca-Cola sales drop in Q4

Coca Cola's sales declined 5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, thanks to the resurgence in coronavirus cases that led to renewed restrictions on bars and restaurants worldwide. However the drop was less steep compared with the 9 per cent sales decline in the preceding quarter. The revenues fell 5 per cent year-on-year to $8.6 billion. The Atlanta-based company is looking to reorganise its business in response to the pandemic. It said last year that at least 200 of lesser known brands would be eliminated. In December, the company announced around 2,200 layoffs globally, including 1,200 positions in the US, it's primary market. Read here

AstraZeneca to set up new vaccine facility in Germany

In a bid to speed up the production of vaccines, pharma giant AstraZeneca, partnering with IDT Biologika, has announced that it will set up a new vaccine facility in Germany. The announcement comes in the wake of tensions with European Union over the vaccine supplies. Europe's vaccination campaign was off to a sluggish start with countries facing severe shortage of supplies. The two companies said the new facility will help ramp up Europe's vaccine rollout. They also plan to build up to five 2,000-litre bioreactors capable of making tens of millions of doses a month of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.  Read here

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