The Latest: US not allocating additional J&J doses next week

U.S. health officials aren’t allocating any additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for next week, as a Baltimore contract manufacturer that’s the key supplier of the shots in the country remains under scrutiny for serious quality lapses.

But many states still have remaining supplies of the J&J vaccine because its use was paused for 11 days while health officials investigated unusual blood clots in a tiny number of the millions of vaccine recipients, federal officials said during a call with governors this week.

In Maryland, the health department said it was told it may not receive additional J&J shots in coming weeks either. The department said in a statement it’s asking providers to use about 88,000 remaining doses of the shots.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has so far accounted for a small percentage of the overall supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. Those were made at a company-owned factory in the Netherlands.

The J&J vaccine has the advantage of requiring just one dose that can be stored in regular refrigerators, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which must be kept frozen and require two doses a few weeks apart.

Because of its versatility, local officials would like to see shipments of the J&J vaccine resume eventually, said Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. .

Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on the supply issues, but said it’s focused on trying to win clearance of the Emergent BioSolutions factory after the Food and Drug Administration ordered the plant shut down four weeks ago due to serious quality problems. In a statement, Emergent BioSolutions said it has responded to the FDA with a comprehensive quality enhancement plan.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

— More school nurses, health corps part of $7.4 billion virus plan

— Britain's Johnson concerned about rise of Indian virus variant in UK

— Nations once lauded for virus successes lag in vaccinations

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico is now administering the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 12 to 15, as state health officials pushed Thursday for more people to get vaccinated.

The move by the state Health Department follows authorizations this week by the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state is encouraging families to register children on its vaccine website.

The expanded availability applies only to the Pfizer vaccine, which until now was only available to people ages 16 and older.

State officials say more than half of eligible residents are now fully vaccinated. The goal is to hit 60% next month, but vaccination rates for some parts of the state — including southeastern New Mexico and other rural areas — are trailing because not everyone wants a shot.

The state has been trying incentive vaccination. Health officials said employers are entitled to tax credits through the federal government for providing paid leave to employees who take time off related to COVID-19 vaccinations.

They also have set up a website where organizations and local groups can request vaccinations clinics.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington is on track to fully reopen its economy by June 30, and a full reopening could happen even sooner if 70% or more of residents over age 16 have gotten at least one dose of vaccine by then, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.

Inslee said the state will stay at 50% capacity for most indoor activities until it moves to full capacity at the end of the June.

He said his decision does not mean the state of emergency sparked by the coronavirus pandemic will end on June 30, and he said that if statewide intensive care capacity reaches 90% at at any point, he will roll back activities again.

Inslee’s linking faster easing of COVID restrictions to vaccination rates is similar to what Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently announced. This week Brown said much of her state’s economy can reopen when 70% of eligible people 16 and older have received their first vaccine dose.

Inslee said that the plateau in COVID-19 activity the state saw a few weeks ago has now turned into a decline, allowing for a full reopening date.

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MORGAN, Utah -- A school district in Utah has announced it is going against a continuing public health order and no longer requiring facial coverings in K-12 schools.

The Standard-Examiner reported that the Morgan School District school board voted Tuesday to change its mask policy to a recommendation that students and faculty wear masks, instead of a requirement. It is one of at least seven school districts in Utah to scale back mask requirements.

The decision came after several residents and students criticized the mandate during public comment. Some educators have argued to keep the mandate because many people rely on others to wear them to stay safe.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington authorities said Thursday all schools in the state must provide full-time, in-person education for students for the 2021-22 school year and that students and staff will still be required to wear masks.

The Washington state Department of Health released guidelines that included mitigation efforts they said were designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The mask directive could prove controversial, as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday moved to ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people. Currently people over the age of 12 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Washington state.

About 1.1 million students attend public schools in Washington state. The Washington state schools directive for fall calls for all people in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors – as well as outdoors if six feet of distancing can’t be maintained.

State authorities are recommending COVID-19 vaccinations and testing programs but are not requiring them for in-person instruction in the fall.

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RENO — Nevada started making COVID-19 shots available to children as young as 12 years old on Thursday after federal health advisers endorsed the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in kids.

More than 177,000 Nevada residents are in the 12-16 age group now eligible for the vaccine To date, 10% of Nevada’s COVID-19 cases have been in the 10-19 age group.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children account for one-fifth of all COVID-19 cases nationally. A year ago, they made up 3% of the total.

Health officials say adolescents and teens typically have more social contacts than adults. So there’s a bigger risk that they will spread the virus.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada website the public uses to get information on coronavirus vaccines is packed with more ad trackers and third-party cookies than any state vaccination website in the country.

An investigation by technology publication The Markup found Immunize Nevada’s website implants third-party cookies and trackers that can potentially be used to track how visitors navigate the internet and collect data on them that can be sold for any number of purposes.

The state says most trackers are used to optimize user experience and evaluate their outreach efforts.

Privacy experts say the amount of trackers on Nevada’s site in comparison to other states goes beyond data-gathering applicable to outreach.

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LOS ANGELES — The city of Los Angeles is launching a bilingual campaign featuring Latino artists encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.

The public service announcement unveiled Thursday is called “Vacúnate Ya, Los Ángeles / Get Vaccinated, L.A.” and features artists Angélica María, Danny Trejo, Pepe Aguilar, Ángela Aguilar and Leonardo Aguilar.

“The goal of this campaign is simple: to get our hard-hit Latino community vaccinated — and help our city and country defeat this pandemic once and for all,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

The 30-second public service announcements will air on local TV news, starting with the Spanish-language version this week and followed by the English version next week. The PSAs will also appear on social media.

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WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is easing indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks inside in most places.

The new guidance was announced at the White House. It will still call for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools.

The CDC will no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, says, “We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

The more people get vaccinated, the faster infections will drop and the harder it will be for the coronavirus to mutate enough to escape vaccines, according to health experts.

This move comes as nearly half of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of vaccine and coronavirus cases are at their lowest rate since September. Also, deaths are at their lowest point since last April.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says if smaller cruise lines want to leave the state, their void will be filled.

DeSantis made his remarks at a news conference Thursday, saying Norwegian Cruise Line isn’t one of the bigger cruise lines. However, the Miami-based Norwegian is the third largest cruise line in the world and has ports of departure in Miami, Port Canaveral and Tampa.

But Norwegian has said it might move departures elsewhere over a law that bans businesses from asking for proof of a coronavirus vaccination. Norwegian hasn’t operated in the U.S. since the federal government shut down all cruises last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government is getting ready to let cruises sail again, but only if nearly all passengers and crew are vaccinated against the virus. DeSantis recently signed a bill banning business from requiring proof of vaccination, prompting Norwegian to say it might move Florida departures to other states or Caribbean ports.

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WASHINGTON -- Many Latinos are forgoing COVID-19 shots because of concerns about losing work hours, getting a bill and immigration worries.

That’s according to a new poll that offers insights into how to raise vaccination rates among the nation’s largest ethnic minority. The Kaiser Family Foundation Vaccine Monitor poll finds that many Hispanics who remain unvaccinated want a shot. Overall, the poll found that 60% of white adults have gotten at least one shot, with 51% of Blacks and 47% of Latinos.

Latinos who have gotten vaccinated were about twice as likely as whites or Blacks to have received their shots at a community health center. Federally funded health centers cater to low-income people regardless of the patient’s immigration status.

The poll found 38% of Hispanic adults say a friend or close family member had died of COVID-19, compared with 18% of white adults. The share of Latinos saying they are very worried that they or a family member will get sick from the virus (41%) was four times higher than among whites.

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WASHINGTON — The government is providing $7.4 billion to expand the nation’s public health capacity by hiring school nurses to vaccinate kids and creating a service corps around health care.

Biden administration coronavirus testing coordinator Carole Johnson says it’s part of a strategy to respond to immediate needs in the COVID-19 pandemic while investing to break the cycle of ‘boom and bust’ financing. About $4.4 billion will go to immediate priorities in fighting the pandemic.

That includes $3.4 billion for states and local health departments to step up hiring of vaccinators, contact tracing workers, virus testing technicians and epidemiologists, who are disease detectives trained to piece together the evidence on the spread of pathogens.

There’s also $500 million for hiring school nurses, who could play a key role in vaccination now that the Pfizer vaccine has been cleared for use by teenagers.

An additional $400 million will set up the Public Health AmeriCorps, a service program that enlists young people early in their careers. The money is expected to support tens of thousands of new jobs over a period of five years, Johnson says.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Some students, faculty and staff at the University of Oklahoma will be required to receive the coronavirus vaccine beginning June 1.

Those who interact with patients at the university’s medical centers and those who study abroad are required to be vaccinated, according to Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz, Jr.

OU is reducing its social distancing guidelines from 6 feet to 3 feet except in patient care settings and designated indoor eating areas. It’s also easing masking requirements for certain outdoor activities, using federal CDC recommendations.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Some countries praised last year for controlling the coronavirus are lagging when it comes to vaccinating their populations.

And some, especially in Asia, are experiencing surges in coronavirus cases. In Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, vaccination rates are languishing in the single figures. Not only do those three countries rank worst among all developed nations in vaccinating their people against COVID-19, they also rank below many developing countries, such as Brazil and India. Australia is also performing comparatively poorly.

That compares to the U.S., where nearly half of all people have gotten at least one shot, and Britain and Israel, where rates are even higher.

Japan has fully vaccinated only about 1% of its population. The nation is facing a significant coronavirus outbreak just 10 weeks before it is to host the already delayed Tokyo Olympics — although without spectators from abroad.

Japan went through a more traditional approval process that required an extra layer of clinical testing for vaccines that had already been tested elsewhere and widely used. Then Japan faced a shortage of medical staff to administer them.

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CAIRO — Egypt received its second shipment of vaccines from the international Covax initiative on Thursday.

Health Minister Hala Zayed says a shipment of 1.7 million AstraZeneca vaccines had arrived at Cairo international airport from the international alliance aimed at providing vaccines to middle and low-income countries.

The new shots arrive as the country encourages citizens to register for its vaccination campaign, expanding it beyond medical and tourism workers to the general population.

Health ministry spokesman Khaled al-Megahed says the country also received 500,000 additional doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, and materials for the country to begin production of that vaccine domestically by the end of the year. These two latest shipments put the total number of vaccines at 5 million, according to the ministry.

The daily reported coronavirus cases have surpassed 1,000 in the past two weeks. Last week, the government ordered a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, shops, cafes and social clubs and closed public beaches and parks for the duration of the Eid holiday, which starts on Thursday and continues through the weekend.

Egypt, with a population of 100 million people, has registered more than 240,927 confirmed cases and 14,091 deaths.

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