May 18, 2021

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The Latest: Germany ramps up use of AstraZeneca vaccine

9 min read

BERLIN — Germany is looking to ramp up the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after authorities last week gave the green light for it to be administered to people 65 and over.

Hundreds of thousands of doses have been gathering dust in recent weeks due to the restrictions on who could get the vaccine and misgivings among some who were eligible. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far but administered just 721,000.

Berlin is opening a sixth vaccine center Monday at the former Tempelhof airport in the center of the city that will administer only the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Germany’s vaccine campaign has lagged behind Britain and the United States. By Sunday, Germany had given out 5.2 million vaccine doses, with 2.5 million people or about 3 % of the population fully vaccinated.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF that he expects Germany to be able to administer up to 10 million shots a week by the end of the month.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— With huge virus aid package for nation in sight, Democrats debate filibuster changes

— From vote to virus, misinformation campaign targets Latinos in US

— UK schools reopen widely, backed by frequent virus testing

— Russia finds its Sputnik V vaccine in hot demand overseas but questions arise over whether it can produce the millions of vaccine doses ordered

— The Cleveland Indians are minus Ramírez, Reyes after they break virus protocol

— Follow 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:

JERUSALEM — After delays, Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements on Monday, more than two months after launching an immunization blitz of its own population.

Palestinian laborers who crossed into Israel at several West Bank checkpoints received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from Magen David Adom paramedics. The vaccination drive orchestrated by COGAT, Israel’s military agency coordinating government operations in the West Bank, had been beset by postponements.

Some 100,000 Palestinian laborers from the West Bank work in Israel and its settlements, which are widely seen internationally as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Israel has administered over 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its population of 9.3 million. Over 3.7 million Israelis — more than 40% — have received two doses of the vaccine. But until Monday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities and drawn international criticism.

Human rights groups and many Palestinians say that as an occupying power, Israel is responsible for providing vaccines to the Palestinians. Israel says that under interim peace accords reached in the 1990s, it does not have any such obligation.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway saw a 19% drop in marriages in 2020 compared to the previous year, which had already seen the lowest figure since 1927.

Norway’s statistics agency said Monday that the pandemic and measures to counter it led to the fall. In 2020, 16,200 weddings were performed.

On top of that, “the decline of 3,000 marriages from 2019 to 2020 is unparalleled and is the largest decline from one year to another since 1919,” said Ane Margrete Toemmeraas of Statistics Norway.

“Figures show that the coronavirus measures from March 12, 2020 caused many to postpone their wedding,” Toemmeraas said. Whether it “leads to an increase in 2021, as many of the postponed weddings may take place this year instead, will become clear later on.”

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HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam administered its first COVID-19 doses Monday to the front-line workers who made the nation’s relative success in controlling the pandemic possible — health workers, contact tracers and security forces who handled quarantine duties.

The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year.

Thousands of doctors, nurses and technicians working at hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients lined up in the morning and received the first jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” nurse Nguyen Thi Huyen said after she got her injection. Huyen has been caring for COVID-19 patients at a tropical disease hospital in Hanoi the past year. Health protocols have limited her time with family, among other challenges.

The first batch of over 100,000 AstraZeneca doses in a 30 million order arrived two weeks ago. Separately, Vietnam expects to secure another 30 million doses of the same vaccine through the U.N.-backed COVAX program for vaccine equality.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.N. children’s agency says Afghanistan has received nearly half a million coronavirus vaccine doses via the global COVAX initiative.

War-torn Afghanistan received 468,000 AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, the first shipment through COVAX, UNICEF said in a statement.

The vaccines were made by the Serum Institute of India, and arrived in the capital of Kabul aboard an Emirates flight, UNICEF said. More vaccines will arrive in the coming weeks and months.

India previously donated 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Afghanistan.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka— Sri Lanka’s government has ended a yearlong work-from-home program for public employees due to the pandemic.

Employees were ordered to report back to their workplaces starting Monday in order to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of public services,

At the start of the pandemic last year, the government imposed a lockdown across the island nation for more than a month, and temporarily closed some government departments.

As a precaution, a limited number of employees were allowed to go to work, while in some institutions, employees had been permitted to work from home since last April.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand says it will now use only the Pfizer vaccine to inoculate its population against the coronavirus, departing from earlier plans to use four different vaccines.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the strategy Monday, saying the decision was based on the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness. She said this would make it easier and fairer for all New Zealanders to have access to the same vaccine.

However, the strategy may also be driven in part by delays in getting vaccines approved. So far, New Zealand’s medical regulators have approved only the Pfizer vaccine and are reviewing two other shots.

Ardern said New Zealand has purchased 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough to inoculate all 5 million residents with the required two doses each. She said most of the doses are expected to arrive during the second half of this year.

New Zealand has so far completed inoculations of only a few thousand people, mainly border workers. The country has stamped out community spread of the virus.

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SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean province near the capital of Seoul has ordered local business owners and farmers to have all foreign employees tested for the coronavirus in the next 15 days, targeting tens of thousands of workers.

The mass testing campaign is the most significant step South Korean officials have taken yet to stem transmissions among migrant laborers, who often face harsh working and living conditions that health authorities say make them more vulnerable to infections.

The order issued Monday by Gyeonggi province Gov. Lee Jae-myung covers at least 85,000 legally hired migrant workers, with fines up to 3 million won ($2,600) for noncompliant employers.

The order also requires employees to ensure their undocumented workers get tested too. The province has encouraged these workers to come forward, saying they won’t be reported to immigration authorities if they are tested before March 22.

South Korea has confirmed more than 92,000 virus cases, including 1,642 deaths.

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DETROIT — People who are homeless will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan starting Monday.

Health officials say it’s a critical step in curbing infections and making sure vulnerable populations have access.

“Our vulnerable populations are high priority for us right now,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said, according to the Lansing State Journal. “This opens the door to make sure that population is also vaccinated and we don’t continue to have outbreaks in shelters.”

The news comes as infection rates are dropping and vaccine campaigns are ramping up.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced the further loosening of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, easing capacity limits in restaurants and other businesses while also allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting that U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be line for vaccinations in early 2022.

Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that vaccines for teens will be available “maybe not the first day but certainly in the early part of the fall.”

Currently, three vaccines are approved for use in the United States. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-shot Moderna vaccine are approved for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 16 and up.

Trials are underway to determine the safety of vaccines on younger people.

Teenagers contract the coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is the latest European country to identify a fast-spreading coronavirus variant that is believed to originate in South Africa.

Slovakia’s Health Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Eliasova says the variant has been detected in seven samples. Four of the people returned from abroad, one of them from the African island of Zanzibar. Three have been infected at home.

Slovakia is one of the hardest-hit European Union countries right now. It has been recently facing a surge of another highly contagious variant found in Britain.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Slovak hospitals surpassed a record of 4,000 earlier this week.

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LONDON — British children are gearing up to return to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to “start moving closer to a sense of normality.”

As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to U.K. classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.

“We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated.

High schools and colleges can reopen in phases to allow for testing. The U.K. government has distributed nearly 57 million rapid “lateral flow” test kits to schools across the country, but there are concerns about the accuracy of the tests, which may result in pupils being forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.

But Susan Hopkins, a director at Public Health England, told the BBC on Sunday that evidence from testing over the past eight weeks suggested less than 1 in 1,000 tests resulted in a false positive.

Britain has had Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with nearly 125,000 COVID-19 deaths.

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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians have broken COVID-19 protocols for the third time in less than a year, this time costing them third baseman José Ramírez and slugger Franmil Reyes.

Manager Terry Francona said Sunday the two players were sent to their Arizona homes while the Indians wait to hear from Major League Baseball when they can rejoin the team.

Francona said Reyes, who had a virus-related misstep last season, and Ramirez went out to dinner on Friday following an exhibition game in Mesa against the Chicago Cubs.

They reported to the team’s complex on Saturday and were immediately sent away. They did not have contact with any other players or team personnel.

“The players themselves actually self-reported that they had made a mistake,” Francona said on a Zoom call.

2021-03-08 05:39:40

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