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More than 1 billion doses administered

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A medical worker receives the Covid-19 vaccine at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University on April 7, 2021 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China.

Southern Visual | Visual China Group | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — China has administered more than a billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccines, a key milestone in the world’s largest inoculation drive.

As of Saturday, 1,010,489,000 doses had been given to people in China, according to the country’s National Health Commission (NHC). More than 100 million doses had been administered in the six days up to and including Saturday.

It’s unclear how many people have been full inoculated as the government does not release those numbers. But Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s top health experts attached to the NHC, said in March that the country is aiming to have 40% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of June.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus in China last year, authorities moved to quickly bring it under control and largely succeeded in reopening the economy and returning life to normal. One reason behind the slow start to China’s vaccination drive earlier this year was that people did not see the urgency for getting inoculated.

But the campaign has since ramped up. It took China 25 days to climb from 100 million doses to 200 million doses — and just six days from 800 million to 900 million, according to state-run media Xinhua.

Still, new coronavirus outbreaks have happened in the country over the past year. Since late May, the major city of Guangzhou in the south of China has been battling the delta variant, which first emerged in India. It is the first time that variant has seen local transmission in mainland China.

The city reported zero new locally transmitted cases on Sunday following a mass testing drive and local lockdowns.

CNBC two visited vaccination sites in the city earlier this month and saw long lines as people rushed to get vaccinated.

The World Health Organization has approved for emergency use the Chinese-made Sinopharm since May, and Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines since June.

China has been shipping its vaccines to countries around the world including Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. However, U.S. and European health authorities have not authorized any Chinese vaccines for emergency use.

There have been questions over the effectiveness of the China-made vaccines. Efficacy rates for China’s Covid vaccines have been found to be lower than those developed by PfizerBioNTech and Moderna

Chile, another recipient of Chinese vaccines, released the results of a real-world study of over 10 million people in April. It found that the Sinovac vaccine reduces deaths by 80%. However, despite being one of the world’s most highly vaccinated countries, Chile saw cases surge in April.

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J&J Covid vaccine recipients can get supplemental Pfizer or Moderna dose in San Francisco

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People stand in line at the mass vaccination site at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center that opened today for healthcare workers and people over 65 on February 5, 2021 in San Francisco, California.

Amy Osborne | AFP | Getty Images

The San Francisco Department of Public Health and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital said Tuesday they are allowing patients who received Johnson & Johnson‘s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine to get a second shot produced by either PfizerBioNTech or Moderna.

J&J recipients can make a special request to get a “supplemental dose” of an mRNA vaccine, city health officials said in a statement to CNBC, declining to call the second shots “boosters.” J&J’s vaccine requires only one dose and recipients are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the shot.

On a call with reporters later Tuesday, San Francisco health officials said they are allowing patients to get the extra shots due to the high number of requests they were receiving from residents. They maintained that J&J’s vaccine is highly effective against the virus and its variants.

“We have gotten requests based on patients talking to their physicians, and that’s why we are allowing the accommodations,” said Naveena Bobba, deputy director of health at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Health officials said they do not recommend booster shots at this time, aligning with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This move does not represent a change in policy for SFDPH,” the public health department said in a statement. “We continue to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and do not recommend a booster shot at this time. We will continue to review any new data and adjust our guidance, if necessary.”

The CDC does not currently recommend Americans mix Covid shots in most circumstances, and federal health officials say booster doses of the vaccines are not needed at this time.

The announcement from San Francisco health officials comes as some Americans say they are finding ways to get additional doses of the Covid vaccines — with some even going as far as receiving the extra shots from different companies — due to concerns about the highly contagious delta variant.

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University, told CNBC last month that she received a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in late June, two months after she got J&J’s single dose. She said she was concerned about her level of protection against delta after studies suggested a single dose of a Covid vaccine wasn’t adequate.

Since Rasmussen received her booster shot, a new study has suggested the J&J vaccine is much less effective against the delta and lambda variants than against the original virus. The researchers who led the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, now say they hope J&J recipients will eventually receive a booster shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

The new research is at odds with a study from J&J, which found the shot is effective against delta, especially against severe disease and hospitalization, even eight months after inoculation. It is likely to reignite the debate of mixing and matching shots in the U.S. as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread across the U.S.

J&J didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the announcement from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

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Incident with multiple tankers in Gulf of Oman raises concerns in oil market

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Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi attends a news conference in Tehran, Iran June 21, 2021.

Majid Asgaripour | WANA News Agency | Reuters

U.S. officials say they are still trying to determine exactly what’s happening, but numerous reports say there’s potentially one hijacked ship in the Gulf of Oman and the status of several others is unclear.

The situation occurred as tensions between the West and Iran have been rising, and as the U.S. and other world powers have been trying to reach a new deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

At a briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said “we are aware of the reports of a maritime incident in the Gulf of Oman. We are concerned. We are looking into it.”

Price said this was part of a disturbing pattern of belligerent behavior from Iran “including belligerents in the maritime domain.”

Price was referring to what military experts call a drone attack against a ship last week that killed a British crew member and a Romanian crew member aboard the ship Mercer Street.

Other U.S. officials say the situation is moving quickly, but it appears armed Iranian gunmen had boarded the seized tanker.

The incident has not moved oil prices, yet anyway. West Texas Intermediate crude futures for September settled down nearly 1% at $70.50 per barrel but they were off the lows of the day after the reports.

Lloyds List reported that the Panamanian flagged Asphalt Princess was the ship that was reportedly seized by armed men. The British navy earlier Tuesday had warned of a “potential hijack” in the Gulf of Oman, and the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations warned ship operators that “an incident is currently underway” off of Fujairah, according to news reports.

Tankers depicted in the Strait of Hormuz — a strategically important waterway which separates Iran, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

ATTA KENARE | AFP | Getty Images

The Associated Press had reported that at least four ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates broadcast warnings Tuesday that they had lost the control of their steering. The four vessels were identified as Queen Ematha, the Golden Brilliant, Jag Poofa and Abyss, according to the AP, citing MarineTraffic.com.

Helima Croft, a former CIA analyst who heads global commodities strategy for RBC, said the activity is alarming and it appears to have been some sort of action that involves the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The IRG is a powerful military force that Iran wields separately from the standard Iranian armed forces and it reports directly to the Ayatollah.

“It is alarming given the fact we had two fatalities on Friday,” she said. “You have to put it in the context of Iran continuing to make progress on the nuclear restart against the backdrop of a new hardline government coming to power in Tehran. It raises the risk of unintended escalation, or one side not appreciating the other’s red lines.”

This is all happening amid stalled nuclear talks between Iran and major international powers. At the same time, a new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, took over as of Tuesday. In the past several days he’s increased the rhetoric against the United States calling the U.S. “tyrannical.”

“We will not tie the economy to the will of foreigners,” Raisi said.

Croft said the best window for Washington to get a deal done with Iran has probably passed, now that a new government is in place.

“The fact we are now dealing with a different negotiating team in and of itself would signal the process would be more protracted,” she said. “If you add the maritime security incidents … that makes it a much bigger hill to climb to get back into the deal.”

Croft said Iran may be using a hardline stance to try to push Washington into a deal. “The Iranians may be calculating if you raise the temperature enough, Washington will fold because Washington does not want a military operation in the Middle East,” she said.

Croft said the market is singularly focused on the potential of a renewed economic slowdown and drop off in oil demand due to the breakout of the delta variant of Covid.

The escalation of tensions makes it less likely a deal will be struck soon, meaning Iran’s oil will not be back on the market. But if the tensions escalate and the activity disrupts the oil market that would impact prices.

“If we see real signs of a disruption in production or delivery the market will move very quickly,” she said.

Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says the Iranian attacks on international shipping shows the policies of the Biden administration aren’t working. 

“The U.S. obsession with keeping the nuclear agreement alive at all costs incentivizes the regime in Iran to take more aggressive actions against US interests without fear of punishment,” Nader said in an interview with CNBC Tuesday.

Despite an increase in tensions, Again Capital’s John Kilduff, who watches the oil market closely, said “there’s not enough here yet for me to be convinced, the market isn’t getting excited yet.”

Kilduff does believe however “the Islamic Revolutionary Guard is clearly ascendant and they have a lot of power to cause a lot of disruption.”

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Biden calls on Cuomo to resign after bombshell sexual harassment report

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US President Joe Biden speaks about the American Rescue Plan during an event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, July 15, 2021.

SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden called on Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign Tuesday, following a report that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.

“He should resign. I understand the state legislature may decide to impeach, I do not know that for a fact,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

The response came four months after Biden said that if an investigation confirmed allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo, then the governor should step down.

Biden said Tuesday that he stood by his March statement.

“I think he’ll probably end up being prosecuted, too,” Biden told ABC News in an interview that aired March 16.

The report released Tuesday by state Attorney General Letitia James summarized a monthslong probe by concluding that Cuomo “sexually harassed multiple women, and in doing so violated federal and state law,” James said at a press conference.

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A somber but defiant Cuomo strongly denied some of those allegations later Tuesday, and said that other examples of his alleged misconduct had been mischaracterized or misinterpreted.

The 165-page report, which comprises interviews with 179 witnesses and a review of tens of thousands of documents, also said that Cuomo’s office was riddled with fear and intimidation, and was a hostile work environment for many staffers.

The women Cuomo is accused of harassing included members of his own staff, members of the public and other state employees, one of whom was a state trooper, the report found.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House’s message to Cuomo’s accusers was that all women who “have lived through this type of experience … deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”

“I don’t know that anyone could have watched [James’ press conference] this morning and not found the allegations to be abhorrent— I know I certainly did,” said Psaki.

The findings revealed “a deeply disturbing, yet clear, picture,” James said, describing Cuomo’s office as “a toxic workplace.”

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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