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The Latest: Malaysia begins vaccinations, PM gets 1st shot

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin received Malaysia’s first COVID-19 vaccine shot on Wednesday at the start of its inoculation campaign.

“I did not feel anything at all. It was all over before I realized, just like a normal injection. Don’t worry, come forward anytime,” he said at a ceremony broadcast live.

Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah was also among the first to be vaccinated.

Malaysia, which has signed deals with several vaccine suppliers including Pfizer and AstroZeneca, aims to vaccinate up to 80% of its 32 million people by next year.

More than half a million health care and front-line workers will be given priority in the first phase.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

States are scrambling to catch up after weather disruptions while also gearing up to administer more shots as vaccine supply increases

— Health nominee Becerra says pandemic will be priority but also pledges to expand insurance, rein in drug costs and reduce racial disparities

— Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BANGKOK — Thailand on Wednesday received its first 200,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine.

Another 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were expected later Wednesday.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attended a ceremony with the Chinese Embassy deputy mission chief to receive the Sinovac vaccines at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

Thailand has ordered a total of 2 million doses from China.

Later this year, local manufacturer Siam Bioscience will supply 200 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the region, of which 26 million are allocated for Thailand. Thai officials have said they have secured an additional deal with AstraZeneca for a total of 61 million doses.

Many critics and opposition parties have criticized the government’s procurement plans as too slow and inadequate.

Thailand, whose economy relies on income from tourism, is aiming to inject 10 million doses a month from June and plans to inoculate at least half the population by the end of the year.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Two elderly people have been administered with higher-than-prescribed doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Australia’s health minister said Wednesday.

The 88-year-old man and 94-year-old woman were being monitored and the doctor who administered the shots has been removed from the vaccination program, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

The error occurred at the Holy Spirit aged care home in the Brisbane suburb of Carseldine on Tuesday, the day after the vaccine rollout in Australia began, Hunt said.

“Both patients are being been monitored and both patients are showing no signs at all of an adverse reaction,” Hunt said. He did not say how much more than the prescribed dose was injected.

Lincoln Hopper, chief executive of St. Vincent’s Care Services that owns the home, said he was “very concerned” for the residents’ welfare. The woman remained at the home while the man has been admitted to a hospital, Hopper said.

“This incident has been very distressing to us, to our residents and to their families and it’s also very concerning,” Hopper said. “It’s caused us to question whether some of the clinicians given the job of administering the vaccine have received the appropriate training.”

Hunt later revealed that the doctor who administered the overdoses had not completed the online training that all health professionals involved in the program must undertake.

Hunt apologized for earlier telling Parliament that the doctor had been trained. He said he had asked the Health Department to take action against the doctor and the company the doctor works for.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has started administering vaccines to teachers as it prepares for a gradual re-opening of schools.

Education Minister Ziya Selcuk, who received the first shot on Wednesday, said 1.25 million teachers and other school staff members are being prioritized for vaccines along with health care workers and people above the age of 65, who are currently receiving shots under Turkey’s inoculation program.

Schools in rural areas resumed in-person education on Feb. 15. Schools in other parts of the country are to re-open on March 1, with many students attending classes twice a week only. Students preparing high school and university entrance exams are scheduled to attend classes full time.

More than 7 million people have received shots of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac company.

Turkey has reported more than 2.6 million confirmed infections and some 28,000 deaths.

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The date in this item has been corrected to Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s top infectious disease expert has warned that vaccines will not end the coronavirus pandemic quickly as the country prepared to give its first vaccinations this week.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said during a briefing Wednesday it would take a “considerably long time” before the vaccination campaign brings the virus under control.

The country aims to vaccinate more than 70% of its population by November. But a safe return to mask-less normalcy is highly unlikely in 2021, considering various factors including the growing spread of virus variants, said Choi Won Suk, an infectious disease professor at the Korea University Ansan Hospital who joined Jeong at the briefing.

“We are concerned that people might drop their guard as vaccination begins, triggering another massive wave of the virus,” Jeong said.

South Korea on Wednesday began transporting its first available doses of vaccines that rolled off a production line in the southern city of Andong, where local pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience manufactures vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

The country will kick off its mass immunization campaign on Friday by administering the Astra-Zeneca-Oxford vaccines to residents and employees at long-term care facilities.

Separately, some 55,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals involved with treating COVID-19 patients will begin receiving shots of vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Saturday.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s government has approved a nighttime curfew from Thursday until Sunday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus over the Purim holiday.

The Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that a curfew from 8:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. would be in force starting Purim eve.

Purim, a Jewish holiday traditionally marked with public festivities and gatherings, begins Thursday at sundown. The holiday lockdown prohibits any large gatherings of more than 10 people indoors, concerts, parades or parties typical of the holiday’s observances.

Israel reopened its economy last week after a nearly two-month lockdown, the country’s third since the start of the pandemic, as new cases of COVID-19 began to gradually decrease. But recent days have seen a slight uptick in new infections, prompting the government to impose the new lockdown.

It has one of the highest immunization rates per capita, with over 4.5 million of its citizens having received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The Health Ministry has reported over 759,000 cases and at least 5,634 deaths from COVID-19.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than 2,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Tennessee’s most populous county went to waste while local officials sat on tens of thousands of shots they thought had already gone into arms, the state’s top health official announced Tuesday.

The Department of Health began an investigation over the weekend into a report that recent winter storms caused 1,000 doses to be tossed in Shelby County, which encompasses Memphis.

But Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey on Tuesday revealed that the problems were far more widespread. She said issues dating back to Feb. 3 included multiple incidents of spoiled doses, an excessive vaccine inventory, insufficient record-keeping and a lack of a formal process for managing soon-to-expire vaccines. A federal investigation is also expected.

As a result, Shelby County’s local health department will temporarily no longer be allowed to allocate the vaccine. Instead, Memphis city officials, hospitals, clinics and other pharmacies will handle the distribution. Meanwhile, the physical management of the vaccine will now be handled by hospital partners.

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