(Reuters) - The World Health Organization's global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX delivered its first shots on Wednesday, as the race to get doses to the world's poorest people and tame the pandemic accelerates.
AstraZeneca Plc has told the European Union it expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccine doses it was contracted to supply in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS * Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.
* Germany still expects to receive a planned 16 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine in the second quarter, despite a report that there would be delivery shortfalls.
* Poland was set to announce tougher restrictions, especially in regions hit particularly hard by the variant of COVID-19 first detected in Britain.
* Greece will not be able to lift lockdown restrictions in the wider Athens area on March 1 as previously planned, following a sharp increase in infections.
* Hungary cannot yet ease its partial lockdown as a third wave of infections has boosted new cases and only a small section of the population has received a vaccine so far, the prime minister said.
* Denmark plans to allow shops and some schools to reopen in March in a much awaited move that could however send hospital coronavirus admissions soaring in coming months.
* India announced an expansion of its vaccination programme but warned that breaches of coronavirus protocols could worsen an infection surge in many states.
* Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Japan would start vaccinating the elderly from April 12.
* Vietnam aims to obtain 90 million vaccine doses this year, its health ministry said as the country received the first batch of 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
* Malaysia launched its COVID-19 inoculation programme, with a target of vaccinating at least 80% of its 32 million people by February next year.
* The Philippines health ministry said it would investigate the illegal use of unauthorised COVID-19 vaccines, after a presidential advisor admitted to receiving shots of a Sinopharm vaccine smuggled into the country.
* COVID-19 vaccine makers told the U.S. Congress that supplies should surge in the coming weeks.
* The presidents of Mexico and Argentina pressed the United Nations and the world's richest countries to improve poorer nations' access to vaccines.
* Colombia approved the emergency use of AstraZeneca's vaccine.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Hospitals should prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus and take steps to prevent its spread, health authorities in the government-controlled part of Yemen said.
* The United Arab Emirates is opening field hospitals to increase the health sector's capacity.
* The World Bank threatened to suspend its multi-million- dollar financing for Lebanon's vaccinations over politicians jumping the line.
* Israel is giving small amounts of surplus vaccines to Palestinian-run territories as well as to several countries.
* A unit of Sinopharm and CanSinoBIO has applied for public use of its COVID-19 vaccines in China, which if granted would mean China has four locally developed approved vaccines.
* European shares opened generally higher but world shares remained in the red after a weak Asian session, even after Fed Chair Jerome Powell pushed back against inflation fears. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Strong exports and solid construction activity helped the German economy to grow by a better-than-expected 0.3% in the final quarter of last year, but stricter lockdown measures at home and abroad are clouding the outlook.
* Spain announced an additional 11 billion euro ($13.4 billion) package for small and mid-sized companies and the self-employed.
(Compiled by Milla Nissi and Devika Syamnath; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Peter Graff)