The Latest: California urges halt to 300K vaccine doses
PHOENIX (AP) — LOS ANGELES — California’s state epidemiologist is urging a halt to more than 300,000 coronavirus vaccine doses by Moderna because some people who received it needed medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions.
Dr. Erica S. Pan is recommending that vaccine providers stop using one lot of the Moderna vaccine pending completion of an investigation. She says less than 10 people who were inoculated at a single vaccination site needed medical attention.
But she also said serious reactions to vaccinations are extremely rare.
The virus has claimed more than 33,000 lives in California.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Japan’s prime minister vows to hold the already postponed Olympics this summer as proof of victory over virus
— Israel trades Pfizer vast troves of medical data for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine
— Brazil approves two coronavirus vaccines, ones by Sinovac and Oxford-AstraZeneca
— China's economy grows in 2020 as it rebounds from virus, likely only major economy to expand
— Britain vows to give all adults 1st shot of the virus by September
— Tennis players find ways to keep fit even during hotel room quarantines in Australia
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Monday the state will open nine community sites this week to vaccinate adults over 65, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educators, school staff and child care workers.
The program opens the state’s vaccine rollout beyond the first high-priority group that includes healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff.
The nine sites will start inoculating people Thursday by appointment-only due to the small number of available doses.
The announcement comes after the Democratic governor accused the Trump administration of “lying” when he and six other governors asked for permission to receive their states’ second doses from a national stockpile to ramp up vaccination efforts.
The governors were told by federal officials that the administration would release the federal reserve of doses, but later learned the stockpile had already been exhausted.
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota reported on Monday zero coronavirus deaths for the fifth time this month, although the fatality rate by population continues to be among the worst in the country.
The state’s death count, which stands at a total of 1,384, is the sixth highest per capita in the country at 185 deaths per 100,000 people, according to John Hopkins University researchers.
North Dakota’s 14-day rolling average of daily new cases has decreased by more than 27%, according to The COVID Tracking Project data. The state has experienced a steady decline in daily new cases since the virus case count peaked in mid-November. It now ranks 48th per capita in the U.S. for new cases over the last two weeks.
A statewide mask mandate that was enacted in mid-November was allowed to expire Monday morning.
ST. LOUIS -- More than 172,000 people in St. Louis County have registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, but the the local health department so far has only received 975 doses, county Executive Sam Page said Monday.
The county expects more doses to arrive Tuesday but it was unclear how many, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Page also urged residents to be honest about the information they use to register for vaccinations, saying some have falsely claimed to be health care workers or brought along family members who are ineligible at this time.
A new inoculation phase began Monday in Missouri that allows older people and those with certain pre-existing conditions to be vaccinated.
PRAGUE — The fast-spreading coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. has been found in the Czech Republic, a health official said Monday.
The National Institute of Public Health confirmed its findings after it announced over the weekend it was testing suspected samples.
Health Minister Jan Blatny says the variant accounts for about 10% of all sequenced samples in in the country. No further details were provided.
The country of 10.7 million has reported 891,852 confirmed coronavirus cases and 14,449 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The daily infection rate has been in decline since Jan 6., prompting the government to allow stores selling stationary and children’s clothes and shoes to reopen. The country still remains under a tough lockdown with a nighttime curfew.
MADRID — Spain’s Health Ministry has confirmed 84,287 new known coronavirus cases since Friday amid a post-Christmas virus surge. The ministry also reported 455 deaths over the weekend.
Monday’s figures brought the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 2.34 million and known deaths to 53,769.
Spain’s 14-day incidence rate for 100,000 inhabitants rose to 689, from 575 on Friday. Coronavirus patients currently occupy 33% of ICU beds, up from 30% on Friday.
Despite the substantial daily increases, Health Minister Salvador Illa on Monday insisted the measures taken by each of Spain’s 17 regions are enough to quell the increase, ruling out a total lockdown.
Spain’s health emergency chief Fernando Simon said that the country could be at the peak of the latest surge or getting close to it.
ROME — For the first time in three weeks, Italy’s daily caseload of known coronavirus infections dropped below 10,000 on Monday.
Health Ministry figures reported 8,825 additional cases since Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 2.4 million since the start of the pandemic.
Sicily has the nation's highest daily caseload. Italy registered 377 deaths for a second straight day.
The nation’s known COVID-19 death toll of 82,554 is the second highest in Europe.
MADRID — The tiny British colony of Gibraltar says it has lost more people to the coronavirus since the start of the year than from any other single cause in the past century.
Gibraltar, with a population of some 34,000, has posted 38 deaths since Jan. 1.
“Even in war, we have never lost so many in such a short time,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said on Monday.
He said 21 people had died from the virus in the past three days, bringing the colony's total virus deaths to 45 since the start of the pandemic.
Located on Spain’s southern coast, Gibraltar has recorded some 4,000 cases. It has been under lockdown since the beginning of January.
BERLIN — Swiss authorities say they have placed two hotels under quarantine and ordered all guests and employees to be tested after a new variant of the coronavirus was detected among them in the upscale skiing resort of St. Moritz.
Local authorities said Monday they have also closed down skiing schools, regular schools and kindergartens.
Officials did not reveal the names of the two affected facilities, but Swiss media said both were luxury hotels.
In addition to tests at the hotels, all residents of St. Moritz were being asked to be tested on Tuesday. Authorities ordered all residents to wear protective masks, and asked people to reduce their contacts to prevent the further spread of the virus.
“The health office is concerned,” authorities of the Graubuenden canton said in their statement. “The variant of the virus is clearly more contagious than the one that’s currently predominant globally.”
Swiss media reported that the variant of the virus detected in St. Moritz was the one first found in South Africa.
MOSCOW -- Backers of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V say it has been approved in Turkmenistan, an ex-Soviet nation in Central Asia that hasn’t officially reported any infections so far.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the development of the shot announced Monday that health officials in Turkmenistan approved Sputnik V “under the emergency use authorization procedure.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether Russia would ship the vaccine to Turkmenistan any time soon.
The vaccine is still undergoing advanced studies among tens of thousands of people needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Nevertheless, the shot last month was rolled out in a large-scale vaccination campaign in Russia. It has also received regulatory approval in several other countries, and immunization with Sputnik V has started in Belarus and Argentina.
Turkmenistan, a gas-rich nation of 5.9 million, hasn’t reported any coronavirus infections, but authorities have shut restaurants and non-food stores and recommended that the population wears masks to protect against dust and unspecified infectious agents. However, the British ambassador to the capital, Ashgabat, said last month that he had contracted the virus.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai-based carrier Emirates says it’s offering coronavirus vaccines to all employees, with priority given to front-line workers such as cabin crew and pilots.
Parent company Emirates Group said Monday that all of its employees across the United Arab Emirates are now able to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, both of which are available to high-risk groups free of charge in the country.
Emirates Group, which employs over 80,000 people, is among the first aviation organizations in the world to launch an inoculation drive for staff.
Dubai’s economy is powered by long-haul travel and aviation, industries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The UAE has rolled out a mass vaccination campaign and ranks second in the world for vaccinations per person, with 19 doses administered for every 100 residents.
WARSAW, Poland – Some hospitals in Poland have suspended vaccination against COVID-19 after they did not get the expected deliveries of their Pfizer vaccine doses.
A government official monitoring the vaccination process, Michal Dworczyk, said Monday that the latest delivery over the weekend was at least 50% smaller than expected, and the government needs to make changes to the national inoculation schedule that began in late December.
Of some 1.5 million doses Poland has received, the government has secured half for the second jab for those who have received the first portion. The second round of inoculation should be starting this week.
Hospitals in Szczecin region, in the northwest, and in Krakow, in the south, on Monday temporarily halted first vaccinations, saying they have not received the requested doses.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Doctors in care homes for the elderly and people with disabilities in the Netherlands have begun vaccinating residents against the coronavirus.
The health ministry said Monday that the care facilities aim to vaccinate 15,000 residents this week.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says that with the help of doctors at the care homes “we are now starting to protect our elderly and most vulnerable people. They are the most important group in the vaccination strategy.”
A total of 155,000 residents of care homes are in line to be vaccinated in coming weeks.
The Netherlands began vaccinating people on Jan. 6, the last European Union country to kick off its inoculations. Since then, 75,000 health care workers have been vaccinated.
PHOENIX -- Exhausted nurses in rural Yuma, Arizona, are regularly sending COVID-19 patients on a long helicopter ride to hospitals in Phoenix when they don’t have enough staff.
The so-called winter lettuce capital of the U.S. also has lagged on coronavirus testing in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods and just ran out of vaccines.
But some support is coming from military nurses and a new wave of free tests for farmworkers and the elderly in Yuma County, which is the hardest-hit county in one of the hardest-hit states. The area’s only acute care hospital has no other facility to turn to nearby as it competes for medical workers nationwide.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish police have cracked down on a group of 17 people who were found ice bathing naked in a lake near Roskilde, 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Copenhagen.
Everyone in the group, aged between 26 and 51, was charged with violating Denmark’s restrictions that forbid the gathering of more than five people in public. Police said they will all receive a fine. First time offenders get fines of 2,500 kroner ($405).
The incident occurred Sunday morning, police said.
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s top health official, who has led the state throughout the coronavirus pandemic, is leaving for a job with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President-elect Joe Biden.
Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, has been nominated as deputy secretary of the federal agency.
Palm will work to fulfill Biden’s pledge to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines and speed up the rate of vaccinations.
TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed Monday to get the pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympics this summer with ample coronavirus protection.
In a speech opening a new Parliament session, Suga said his government will revise laws to make anti-virus measures enforceable with penalties and compensation. Early in the pandemic, Japan was able to keep its virus caseload manageable with non-binding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing and for people to stay home.
But recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day.
Japan has confirmed more than 330,000 infections and 4,500 deaths from COVID-19, numbers that have surged recently though they are still far smaller than many other countries of its size.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in rich countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people in poorer countries.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off WHO’s week-long executive board meeting -- virtually from its headquarters in Geneva -- on Monday by lamenting that only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in a single poor country, while over 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer nations.
“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest income country -- not 25 million, not 25,000 -- just 25. I need to be blunt,” Tedros said. He did not specify the country.
Tedros, an Ethiopian who goes by his first name, nonetheless hailed the scientific achievement behind rolling out vaccines less than a year after the pandemic erupted in China, where a WHO-backed team has now been deployed to look into origins of the coronavirus.
“Vaccines are the shot in the arm we all need, literally and figuratively,” he said. “But we now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the worlds of the world’s haves and have-nots.”
In some of his toughest public words yet against vaccine makers, Tedros again criticized “bilateral deals” between drug companies and countries that hurt the ability of the WHO-backed COVAX program that aims to get vaccines to all countries based on need.