The Latest: Online vaccine appointments filling up in Kansas

MISSION, Kan. — Online sign-ups for the coronavirus vaccine are filling up almost as quickly as they are posted as health officials in Kansas begin moving beyond immunizing just health care workers and long-term care residents.

Saline County had to shut its down within 30 minutes after residents 65 and older nabbed all 900 available slots. That’s about how long Douglas County had its signup open before its 500 slots were filled.

The rush comes after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced Thursday that the state was moving into the second vaccination phase, which includes about 1 million people. It includes not just those 65 and older but also people in congregate settings such as prisons and homeless shelters, and critical workers such as firefighters, police officers, teachers and meat packing plant employees.

The state also will continue vaccinating people from the first phase, some of whom wanted to watch the rollout to see if there were problems before getting vaccinated themselves.

The challenge is that the state doesn’t have nearly enough doses for all of them — at least not yet. So the state is leaving it up to counties to decide how to prioritize who gets vaccinated next.



Dr. Fauci says a lack of candor about the coronavirus under President Donald Trump “very likely” cost lives. Japan is publicly adamant it will stage the postponed Olympics, but faces vaccine roadblocks. Germany passes 50,000 deaths from coronavirus. Lucky few get COVID-19 vaccine because of rare extra doses in U.S. New Chinese film praises Wuhan ahead of lockdown anniversary. Brazil awaits vaccine cargo from India amid supply concerns. ___

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is reporting a one-day record of 764 COVID-19 deaths but the rate of new infections is falling.

The deaths reported Friday by the California Department of Public Health top the previous mark of 708 set on Jan. 8. In the last two days California has recorded 1,335 deaths.

Hospitalizations and newly confirmed cases have been falling, however, and health officials are growing more optimistic that the worst of the latest surge is over.

The 23,024 new cases reported Friday are less than half the mid-December peak of nearly 54,000. Hospitalizations have fallen below 20,000, a drop of more than 10% in two weeks.


PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown on Friday defended her decision to reject federal guidelines and prioritize teachers for the COVID-19 vaccine before the elderly, stating that if all of Oregon’s seniors were vaccinated first teachers would likely not be vaccinated before the school year and many students would not return to in-person learning.

In addition, during a news conference, officials from the Oregon Health Authority presented a new vaccination timeline that delays the eligibility for seniors 65 to 69 years old to be vaccinated until March 7 and those 70 to 74 pushed back to Feb. 28.

Last week, Oregon officials announced a change to the vaccine distribution — instead of vaccinating teachers and seniors at the same time, teachers would be vaccinated beginning Jan. 25 and people 80 or older beginning Feb. 8.


SAO PAULO — Sao Paulo state, which has posted the greatest number of COVID-19 deaths of any Brazilian state, has tightened its restrictions on activity until Feb. 7 with the 8 p.m. closure of non-essential businesses.

The reopening of schools, previously planned for Feb. 1, was postponed by a week.

Health authorities also announced local hospitals could run out of intensive-care beds in 28 days, which forced them to reassign 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients.

Sao Paulo state is home to 46 million people, and has recorded almost 51,000 deaths from the virus —almost one fourth of the total in Brazil, where cases and deaths of coronavirus are surging again.

Also on Friday, Brazil’s health regulator authorized the emergency use of 4.8 million CoronaVac vaccines bottled locally by Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute. Six million shots were previously made available by Butantan, and another 2 million AstraZeneca shots are expected to arrive from India later on Friday. Brazil has a population of about 210 million.


MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s state health officer said a low supply of vaccine is the largest hindrance to getting people vaccinated for COVID-19.

Alabama health officials were expecting to get more than 112,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses a week based on conversations with federal officials when Operation Ward Speed began last year. Instead, officials said, the state is getting about 50,000 to 60,000 doses a week.

Dr. Scott Harris said federal officials later said the 112,000 figure was not a promise but a figure that the state should use in its planning.

Alabama has approved more than 883 pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other providers to do vaccinations but only 364 have received any vaccine. He said only about 117 providers will get vaccine this week because of the available supply.

The state of nearly 5 million people has received 502,950 vaccine doses and 223,887 of those have been administered, according to state numbers. Harris said many of the unused doses are designated for patients in upcoming appointments for their second or first dose.


WASHINGTON — White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about a potential pause in vaccinations in New York, where the state is reporting a shortage in vaccines available for first doses.

Psaki says the White House has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “look into what is possible” to address the situation in New York. But she stressed the administration will defer to the judgment of medical experts.

“Clearly we don’t want any states to run out of access to vaccines,” Psaki says, adding the Biden administration aims to avoid supply crunches going forward.


LONDON — AstraZeneca says it will ship fewer doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the European Union than anticipated due to supply chain problems.

The company is waiting for the European Medicines Agency to approve its vaccine, which could happen when the EU regulator meets on Jan. 29.

AstraZeneca’s statement said, “initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.”

It adds: “We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes.”

Regulators in Britain and several other countries have already given the vaccine the green light.


BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has released some demographic details on who’s received the coronavirus vaccine.

However, the data provided Friday lacks key information to determine if Louisiana’s doses are equitably distributed.

Few vaccine providers are identifying race in the data submitted. That undermines Gov. John Bel Edwards’ efforts to ensure minority groups have adequate access to vaccination.

The information shows at least 33% of Louisiana’s nearly 273,000 vaccine recipients are white and at least 10% are black. But another 56% of those who have received the shots were listed as “unknown” or “other.”

Edwards is calling on hospitals, clinics and pharmacies vaccinating people in Louisiana to start providing more complete data.


WASHINGTON — New research finds full doses of blood thinners such as heparin can help moderately ill hospitalized COVID-19 patients avoid the need for breathing machines or other organ support.

The preliminary results come from three large, international studies testing various coronavirus treatments and haven’t yet been published. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and other sponsors released the results Friday to help doctors decide on appropriate care.

Nearly all hospitalized COVID-19 patients currently get low doses of a blood thinner to try to prevent clots from forming.

The new results show that “when we give higher doses of blood thinners to patients who are not already critically ill, there is a significant benefit in preventing them from getting sicker,” said Dr. Matthew Neal, a trauma surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and one study leader.

However, the researchers say these drugs don’t help and may harm people who are more seriously ill.

The study highlights how timing and degree of illness matter for coronavirus treatments. Steroid drugs can help severely ill patients but not ones who are only mildly ill. Some antibody drugs seem to help when given soon after or before symptoms appear but not for sicker, hospitalized patients.


HAVANA — A possibly more contagious variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Cuba.

Dr. María Guadalupe Guzmán of the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine says the variant, originally detected in South Africa, was found in an asymptomatic traveler during a check at ports and airports.

While that case was imported, she says authorities can’t rule out the possibility it is also circulating locally. But the institute’s director of epidemiology, Francisco Duran, said it’s not the reason for a recent upsurge in cases on the island.

The nation of some 11 million people has recorded more than 20,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 530 on Thursday, and 188 deaths.


PHOENIX — Arizona’s death toll surpassed 12,000 on Friday after reporting 229 more deaths.

The Department of Health Services reported 8,099 confirmed cases, increasing total cases to more than 700,000.

The surge has crowded hospitals statewide. Arizona is ramping up vaccinations by opening an additional site. But like other states, Arizona has had difficulty getting enough doses to administer.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation is extending its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew and lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more coronavirus vaccinations.

Tribal officials announced the measures will take effect Monday and run through at least Feb. 15. Officials say the daily curfew will run daily from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The tribe has reported a total of 26,782 cases and 940 known deaths on the reservation.


RABAT, Morocco — Morocco has received its first doses of vaccine against the coronavirus and plans to start injections next week.

The Health Ministry sats the AstraZeneca vaccine, delivered from India, will be followed by another delivery next week of a second vaccine, from China’s Sinopharm.

The vaccine rollout will start next week. Priority will be given to health workers age 40 and above, police and army officers, teachers 45 and above and those over 75.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says the U.N. health agency is providing Japan and the International Olympic Committee with “technical, operational and risk management” advice regarding the Tokyo Games.

However, it says it won’t be part of any decision as to whether the Olympics proceed.

Dr. Michael Ryan says WHO has participated in more than a dozen meetings with the IOC and Japanese institutions as part of a COVID-19 task force.

Ryan says WHO routinely provides advice to countries for mass gathering events, like the World Cup, but the decision is up to governments.

“The best way we can get to an Olympics is get on top of this disease,” he says.


LANSING, Mich. — Michigan restaurants and bars can reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity with a 10 p.m. curfew on Feb. 1, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday.

“While we must remain vigilant and cautious, we can lift some protocols that were previously in place,” Whitmer said. “I know this pandemic has hurt our restaurant owners, our restaurant workers and all of their families. I want to thank those that made incredible sacrifices and did their part.”

Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon’s order limits capacity to 25% — lower than the 50% ceiling that was in effect from June to November — with a maximum of 100 people. Bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. and collect customers’ contact information for tracing purposes.

Food establishments can voluntarily take part in a new state ventilation-inspection program.


BOSTON — Officials say nearly 2,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were spoiled at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Boston after a contractor accidentally unplugged a freezer.

Officials at the Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center discovered on Tuesday that a freezer had failed, compromising 1,900 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The plug to the freezer was found to be loose after a contractor accidentally unplugged it while cleaning, according to a statement from Kyle Toto, a spokesman for VA Boston Healthcare System. The freezer had been in a safe location and had an alarm system, he said.

The system is investigating the cause of the incident and why the monitoring alarm system did not work. More doses are on the way, Toto says, and officials “do not foresee disruption” of the vaccination effort.


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