The Hague (AFP) -
Europe's drug regulator was expected to rule Tuesday on the safety of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine after fears it could be linked to extremely rare blood clots, as the US drugmaker said it was 'very confident' in its shot.
The announcement was expected as an EU official promised to have enough vaccines in hand to inoculate the majority of European adults by the summer -- a boon for the continent's sluggish rollout.
The United States is also expected to announce its decision on the single-shot J&J vaccine by Friday, as nations around the world try to accelerate their rollouts and revive their pandemic-ravaged economies.
The American drugmaker said Tuesday it was 'very confident' in its vaccine, speaking ahead of a European Medicines Agency (EMA) briefing about very rare cases of blood clots reported among people who got the J&J shot.
The number of reported clots were 'extremely small' compared with the millions of J&J shots administered worldwide, the EMA has said.
That comparison echoes the comments by top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci, who described the clots as 'an extraordinarily rare event'.
Fauci said this week he believed the US would resume use of the jab, possibly with some restrictions or warnings.
A top Johnson & Johnson executive said Tuesday he was confident in the jab and that he hopes for a speedy resolution to the current pause.
'We remain very confident and very hopeful that the benefit-risk profile will play out,' J&J Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk told CNBC.
The company hopes 'very shortly ... perhaps as early as the end of this week, to have some resolution with how we are going to proceed,' he added.
The J&J vaccine concerns follow similar reports of blood clots in a very small number of people who received the AstraZeneca shot.
The EMA described those clots as a 'very rare' side effect, stressing that the AstraZeneca jab's benefits outweigh the risks.
The leaders of Europe are keen to accelerate vaccinations and expand availability after facing intense criticism over a sluggish rollout and with the public desperate for a return to some degree of normality.
A senior EU official said Tuesday the bloc will have enough vaccine doses in hand to cover 70 percent of its adult population by mid-July, after the bloc struggled to secure supplies from drugmakers.
'I am now certain of how many doses are currently in production and I know how many millions will be delivered each week,' internal markets commissioner Thierry Breton told French daily Le Figaro in an interview.
'This allows me to assure you that we well have by mid-July the number of doses necessary for vaccinating 70 percent of the European Union's adult population.'
- Crisis in India -
India, home to 1.3 billion people, is battling a worrying surge, with record daily case numbers overwhelming already stretched hospitals and medical supplies.
Its capital New Delhi was locked down Monday for a week, and the government said all adults would be eligible for a vaccine from May as it tries to get a grip on the spike.
The Delhi lockdown follows the strict restrictions already imposed in other Indian states.
The US Centers for Disease Control on Monday advised against all travel to India because of the Covid-19 crisis, and the UK imposed restrictions on arrivals from the country.
The brutal wave has dramatically increased the workload for crematoriums and gravediggers, with social media and newspapers flooded with horrifying images of row upon row of burning pyres.
The chimney of one electric furnace in the western city of Ahmedabad cracked and collapsed after being in constant use for up to 20 hours a day for the past two weeks.
And the iron frames inside another in Surat melted because there was no time to let the furnaces cool.
At a cemetery in New Delhi, gravedigger Shamim told AFP: 'At this rate, I will run out of space in three or four days.'
Concerns about a spike were growing in Japan too, where its third-most populated region Osaka on Tuesday will ask the central government to impose a state of emergency.
Tokyo and several other areas are expected to follow suit, hoping to avoid the crisis in Osaka, where hospital beds for coronavirus patients in severe condition have run out.
- Vaccine inequality -
There are concerns that vaccine inequality between wealthy and poor nations will further complicate and prolong the pandemic.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg became the latest high-profile figure to criticise the lopsided distribution, describing vaccine inequity as a 'tragedy'.
Mass vaccinations are considered key for resuming regular life and economic activity, especially travel.
But the World Health Organization's emergency committee said it was against international passengers being required to have proof of vaccination -- a proposal being mulled by numerous countries.
The committee said such requirements would 'deepen inequities and promote differential freedom of movement' because of the uneven global vaccine rollout.
But the threat of the virus being spread by international travellers was brought into sharp focus in Hong Kong, where at least 53 passengers on a single flight from India tested positive.