The Latest: White House: 27M vaccine doses to be shipped next week


The Associated Press



WASHINGTON — The White House says 27 million doses of coronavirus vaccines will be distributed next week, more than three times the number when President Joe Biden took office just over two months ago.

Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors on their weekly conference call that 23 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna and about 4 million of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine will be shipped next week.

About 18 million of those shots will be given directly to states and jurisdictions to administer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki says. Most of the remainder will go to the federal retail pharmacy program, with a smaller share to federally qualified community health centers.

The administration expects supplies to continue to increase in the coming weeks, which comes as more states are relaxing eligibility criteria for shots. Biden is directing all adults be eligible for vaccines nationwide by May 1, and the U.S. remains on track to have enough supply to cover all adults by the end of May.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — Italy registered 551 deaths, its highest one-day COVID-19 death toll since mid-January.

The daily death toll was last higher – 603 – on Jan. 19. Italy is struggling with a surge of infections, and health experts say its partly fueled by the coronavirus variant found in Britain.

Italy’s vaccine rollout was slowed by delays in deliveries by manufacturers and other logistic problems. Many people 80 or older say they haven’t been able to reserve a slot for a first dose of vaccine. Doctors lament older adults account for the biggest share of deaths and filled ICU beds.

There’s been than 3.4 million confirmed coronavirus infections in the country. Italy’s total known death toll is 105,879, the second highest in Europe after Britain, which has more than 126,000 deaths.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas authorities are reinstating restrictions in the Gaza Strip after a rise in daily coronavirus infections.

The Interior Ministry of the Islamic militant group announced Tuesday a nighttime curfew starting at 9 p.m. on Saturday in the Palestinian territory. Mourning houses and street wedding parties will be banned.

The Health Ministry reported 450 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, weeks after the number had stood at less than 200. In January, Hamas had started a gradual easing of restrictions and lifted all limits this month.

The pandemic has killed 589 people and close to 60,000 residents have contracted the virus.

Gaza has received vaccines enough to inoculate only 41,000 of the nearly 2 million residents.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin “doesn’t like” the idea of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 on camera and will get his shot out of the public eye on Tuesday, his spokesman says.

Asked whether the Kremlin will release any photos or footage of Putin getting his coronavirus vaccine shot, the spokesman said during a conference call that reporters would have to “take (our) word for it.”

Russia, where only 4.3% of the 146-million population have received at least one shot, lags behind a number of countries in terms of the vaccination rate. A poll by the independent pollster Levada Center found 62% Russians were not willing to take the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

Russian authorities have given regulatory approval to three domestically developed shots — Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac. The Kremlin spokesman refused to reveal which of the three vaccines authorized for use in Russia Putin will receive, saying all three are “absolutely good, reliable, effective.”

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NEW YORK — About 80,000 New York City municipal employees who have been working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic will return to their offices starting May 3.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city will employ strict safety measures, but added “we need our city workers back in their offices where they can do the most to help their fellow New Yorkers, and it’s also going to send a powerful message about this city moving forward.”

A spokesperson for de Blasio said about 80,000 municipal office workers will begin a staggered process of returning to their work sites on May 3.

Asked if the return of city workers to offices could set an example for private businesses, de Blasio said each company will approach the question of whether employees need to be in their offices full time or part time.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is becoming the most populous state to make COVID-19 vaccines available to all adults.

That’s more than a month before President Joe Biden’s goal of making the shots available to anyone who wants one by May 1. The announcement by state health officials Tuesday adds Texas to the rapidly growing list of states that are making the vaccine available to all adults.

Texas has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates. Roughly 10% of the state’s population had been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, and about 22% had received at least one dose, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. State officials have blamed the numbers on February’s blackouts from a deadly winter storm

The vaccination expansion for the state’s nearly 30 million residents will begin Monday. For the past two weeks, Texas has been the nation’s largest state with no coronavirus restrictions after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott repealed a mask mandate and lifted limits on restaurant and retail occupancy.

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WARSAW, Poland — Polish citizens are again registering in large numbers for inoculation with the AstraZeneca vaccine, following a brief drop last week.

Michal Dworczyk, a government official in charge of the vaccination program, says more than 1 million people registered for vaccination since Monday, including those age 59 and above.

Poland, which bought some 16 million of AstraZeneca vaccines, never suspended the company’s product despite concerns in some other countries about reports of cases of blood clots. Dworczyk says the national vaccination program is “our only chance for ending the pandemic and returning to normal social and economic life.”

Almost 5.1 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, including almost 1.8 million second doses, have been administered in the nation of 38 million.

More than 24,000 beds are filled among 35,000 beds available in Poland to COVID-19 patients. There have been 2.1 million reported cases and nearly 50,000 confirmed deaths in Poland.

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MADRID — Spain is lifting a three-month restriction on flights from the United Kingdom, amid criticism of the government’s pandemic travel policies ahead of the traditional Easter vacation period.

Government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero said after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday that people from the U.K. will be allowed to fly to Spain if they have tested negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival.

Since December, only Spaniards have been allowed back into Spain from the U.K. Spanish authorities were concerned about the spread of a more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain.

Opposition parties in the Spanish parliament chided the government for allowing foreign tourists into Spain while banning travel between Spanish regions due to the risk of contagion.

The British government is discouraging vacations abroad until at least mid-May.

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PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron is changing strategies and pushing for mass vaccinations with coronavirus infections on the rise in northern France and the Paris region.

“The heart of the battle, in the coming weeks and months, will be the vaccination,” Macron said Tuesday in announcing lowering the age group of those eligible for shots from 75 to 70 years starting this weekend.

In the Paris region, the rate of infection in people ages 20 to 50 is above 800 for 100,000 residents.

The Health Ministry says about 200 “mega-centers” will administer as many as one million shots per week. Some could be in place by the end of the month.

“There are no holidays, no weekends. We must vaccinate every day, vaccinate in the evenings, too,” Macron said while visiting a gymnasium converted to a vaccine center and pharmacy in the northern town of Valenciennes.

France added 344 confirmed deaths in the past day, increasing the total to 92,650 deaths by Monday night.

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BRUSSELS — The head of the European Union’s medicines agency says the agency still needs additional data from the makers of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine as it evaluates the shot.

The European Medicines Agency is currently assessing whether to authorize Sputnik V for use in the 27-nation bloc.

Speaking Tuesday to European Parliament lawmakers, EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke said, “we still have some additional questions that the company needs to supply us with. We have to wait for that data to be submitted” before the vaccine can be evaluated.

Cooke says the agency is planning inspections of “manufacturing and clinical sites in Russia” and cannot give a timeframe for approval of the Russian vaccine.

Cooke also told lawmakers that supplies of the fourth vaccine approved by the agency, made by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen facility in the Netherlands, “are not expected to be available until sometime in April.”

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NEW DELHI, India — India will start vaccinating everyone over age 45 starting April 1, with new infections on the rise the past few weeks.

Federal information minister Prakash Javadekar made the announcement on Tuesday, when more than 40,000 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours. Most infections are in Maharashtra state in India’s western coast. But cases have spiked in other states like Punjab, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

So far, India’s vaccination had focused on the elderly or those over 45 with ailments such as heart disease or diabetes. The vaccine is being offered for free at government hospitals and sold at a fixed price of 250 rupees or $3.45 per shot at private hospitals.

India has given the green signal for the use of two vaccines — the AstraZeneca vaccine made locally by Serum Institute, and another by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech. The minister says India had sufficient supplies of vaccines.

Javadekar added the interval between the two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, being made in India by Serum Institute, would be increased to up to eight weeks, compared to 4-6 weeks advised earlier.

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TARRYTOWN, New York — A large new study adds evidence that quick use of a drug with antibodies to fight COVID-19 can help prevent serious illness.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals says tests in more than 4,000 recently diagnosed patients found its two-antibody combo drug cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 70%. All in the study were outpatients and at risk of developing serious illness because of age or other health conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure. The drug also cut the median recovery time from 14 days to 10.

The drug’s benefits were similar at half of the dose currently allowed in the United States under emergency use provisions. The company says it would ask regulators to allow the lower dose, too.

The results haven’t been published or reviewed by independent scientists yet. The drug is given once, through an IV, and the company also is testing it in shot form, which would make it easier to use.

Previously, Eli Lilly announced that its two-antibody treatment also reduced the risk of hospitalization or death in similar patients.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that a surge of coronavirus cases in Europe could foreshadow a similar surge in the United States.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, is urging Americans to remain cautious while the nation races to vaccinate its citizens.

In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Fauci says he is “optimistic” of the vaccines’ effectiveness and expressed hope that AstraZeneca’s vaccine could join the arsenal of inoculations.

He deemed it an “unforced error” that the company may have used outdated data, perhaps providing an incomplete view of its effectiveness. But he says Americans should take comfort knowing the FDA would conduct an independent review before it was approved for use in the United States.

AstraZeneca reported Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection among adults of all ages in a long-anticipated U.S. study, a finding that some experts hoped would help rebuild public confidence in the shot around the world and move it a step closer to clearance in the U.S.

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BRUSSELS — A leading European Union official has lashed out at the AstraZeneca vaccine company for its massive shortfall in producing doses for the 27-nation bloc, and threatened that any shots produced by them in the EU could be forced to stay there.

Sandra Galina, the chief of the European Commission’s health division, told legislators on Tuesday that while vaccine producers like Pfizer and Moderna have largely met their commitments “the problem has been AstraZeneca. So it’s one contract which we have a serious problem.”

The European Union has been criticized at home and abroad for its slow rollout of its vaccine drive to the citizens, standing at about a third of jabs given to their citizens compared to nations like the United States and United Kingdom.

Galina says the overwhelming responsibility lies with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was supposed to be the workforce of the drive, because it is cheaper and easier to transport and was supposed to delivered in huge amounts in the first half of the year.

“We are not even receiving a quarter of such deliveries as regards this issue,” Galina said, adding AstraZeneca could expect measures from the EU. “We intend, of course, to take action because, you know, this is the issue that cannot be left unattended.”

The EU already closed an advance purchasing agreement with the Anglo-Swedish company in August last year for up to 400 million doses.

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The Associated Press