The Latest: US to buy 100M more doses of approved vaccines
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is announcing that the U.S. is purchasing an additional 100 million doses each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines for delivery this summer, with the government expecting to be able to deliver enough of the two-dose regimens to states this summer to vaccinate 300 million people.
The additional purchases from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna come as the Biden administration is trying to ramp up vaccine production and states’ capacities to inject them into arms. Biden is also announcing that vaccine deliveries to states and territories will be boosted to at least 10 million doses per week over the next three weeks.
Seeking to address concerns from state and local leaders that supplies have been inconsistent, prompting last-minute cancellations of booked appointments, the White House is also pledging to provide states with firm vaccine allocations three weeks in advance of delivery to allow for accurate planning for injections.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Vaccine appointments canceled in U.S. amid confusion over supply.
— U.K. is first country in Europe to pass 100K deaths.
— EU demands vaccine makers honor their commitments.
— Virus variant brings new dimension to Europe’s pandemic fight.
— Some hospitals near capacity in hard-hit areas as Indonesia hits 1 million virus cases.
— Taiwan quarantines 5,000 people while looking for source of hospital cluster.
— 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
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LOS ANGELES — California is revamping its vaccine delivery system mid-stride, centralizing what has been a hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining appointment sign-up, notification and eligibility for its 40 million residents.
The state’s health agency on Tuesday said third-party administrators would take over ordering and distributing vaccine doses with a new state secretary in charge of logistics. The move comes after California faced criticism for a slow rollout as coronavirus cases soared and hospital beds filled up with patients in much of the state.
Residents have been baffled by the varying systems as some counties will vaccinate people 65 and older while others are limited to the more restrictive 75 and up.
WASHINGTON — “Several hundred” White House staffers have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as the Biden administration looks to create a safe workspace for the new president.
Spokesman Kevin Munoz said the White House has provided the first of the two-shot vaccination to those who work on-site and is working toward vaccinating all staffers in the coming weeks.
President Joe Biden’s White House has operated with sparse staffing to prevent the spread of the virus, mandating social distancing and the wearing of N95 masks.
Biden completed the two-dose regimen a week before his swearing-in, and Vice President Kamala Harris was given her second shot Tuesday at the National Institutes of Health.
Both she and President Joe Biden got the vaccine live on television to help alleviate public resistance to the vaccine and reassure Americans of its safety. On Tuesday, Harris encouraged Americans to get the vaccine, describing it as “something that will save your life and the life of your family and the community.”
The former Trump administration vaccinated dozens of top aides before leaving office.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and two other top administration officials are going to be tested again Tuesday for the virus that causes COVID-19.
If the tests of Scott, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak come back negative, they will be immediately released from quarantine.
The three were potentially exposed to the virus when a state contractor, who later tested positive, attended the governor’s regular virus briefings on Jan. 15 and Jan. 22.
Officials who were only exposed on Jan. 15 have tested negative for the virus seven days after exposure and they have been released from quarantine.
RALEIGH, N.C. — An increasing number of COVID-19 vaccination sites around the U.S. are canceling appointments because of vaccine shortages.
States are expected to find out their latest weekly allocation of vaccines on Tuesday. The White House plans to hold a call with governors to discuss the vaccine supply.
Governors and top health officials have been concerned about inadequate supplies and the need for more reliable estimates of how much is on the way so that they can plan accordingly.
On Tuesday, the CDC reported just over half of the 41 million doses distributed to states have been put in people’s arms. Some vaccination sites have canceled appointments for first-dose shots. Many are likely holding large quantities of vaccine in reserve to make sure people who have already gotten their first shot receive the required second shot on schedule, three to four weeks later.
SAN DIEGO — Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park appear to be recovering weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus, including a silverback who received antibody treatment.
The park’s executive director Lisa Peterson says the eight western lowland gorillas are eating, drinking and active after being exposed by a zookeeper who tested positive for coronavirus in early January.
Peterson says fecal samples from the gorillas are no longer testing positive for the virus. She says some of the gorillas will get the COVID-19 vaccine from a supply made specifically for animals.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia has tested nearly half of its population in a nine-day nationwide testing effort.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says a total of 2.59 million Slovaks have been tested in the nation of 5.4 million. The testing started Jan, 18 and ended on Tuesday.
Matovic says 30,556 people tested positive by rapid antigen tests or 1.18%. He says the testing will be repeated in half of the country’s 72 counties with the worst results.
Slovakia has vaccinated 102,692 people with the Pfizer shots. The country has reported 238,617 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,260 deaths.
NEW YORK — Health officials say evidence continues to mount that it’s generally safe to have in-person schooling if U.S. schools require mask-wearing and other precautions.
The latest study looks at schools in rural Wisconsin and found cases linked to in-school transmission were very low even while infections were common in the same communities.
The Wisconsin study was published online Tuesday by a CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It focused on 17 schools in Wood County in central Wisconsin and found cases were diagnosed at rate 37% lower than reported in the county overall.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Margaret Honein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other CDC scientists say it’s reassuring that the kind of spread seen in nursing homes and other places hasn’t been noted in schools with prevention measures.
However, they say some extracurricular school-related activities, such as sports, have triggered coronavirus spread in some places.
ATLANTA — A member of the Georgia state House has been removed from the chamber for not abiding by the legislature’s coronavirus testing policy.
Rep. David Clark, a Republican from Buford, was asked to leave the House floor Tuesday morning. Clark refused to leave on his own and had to be escorted out by police.
Members of the legislature undergo testing twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. Clark told reporters he is abstaining from twice-a-week testing until it is available to everyone in Georgia, particularly teachers and first responders.
A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston issued a statement that didn’t name Clark. It said he had been “advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested at any point during this session.”
LONDON — More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus.
The health department said 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday. Britain is the fifth country in the world to pass that mark, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest.
The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s. The U.K. toll is 30,000 more than the total number of British civilians killed during the six years of World War II.
GENEVA — Experts at the World Health Organization have announced plans for a Feb. 8 meeting to review AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, saying the timing could coincide with an emergency-use approval for it by the U.N. health agency.
Dr. Joachim Hombach, the executive secretary of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization, says it “tentatively” plans for the review which “would then be pretty much timed with the emergency listing process of WHO.”
That vaccine holds promise because it is cheaper than other vaccines currently being deployed, and it would not require conservation at ultra-low temperatures that some others do — making it a more likely candidate for rollout in remote places and developing countries.
BRUSSELS — The European Union is warning pharmaceutical giants developing coronavirus vaccines to honor their contractual obligations.
Slow deliveries from two companies hampered its vaccine rollout in several nations. The bloc criticized pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, accusing it of failing to guarantee delivery of coronavirus vaccines without valid explanation. It’s facing delivery delays from Pfizer due to a plant upgrade in Belgium.
The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with option on 100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million.
The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday ahead of its expected approval. The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than 2 billion doses, but so far only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use.
WUHAN, China — A relative of a coronavirus victim in China is demanding to meet a visiting World Health Organization expert team, saying it should speak with affected families who allege they are being muffled by the Chinese government.
Zhang Hai’s father died of COVID-19 in February 2020. He has been organizing relatives of victims to demand accountability from officials. Zhang says he’s worried the WHO might be used to provide cover for alleged Chinese missteps in the early days of the outbreak.
WHO says the visit is a scientific mission to investigate the origins of the virus, not an effort to assign blame. The WHO team is expected to begin field work later this week.
On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the U.S., told the World Economic Forum that the origins of the virus are still unknown, “a big black box, which is awful.”
Keiji Fukuda, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong and a former WHO official says, “it all comes down to what will the team have access to. Will they really be able to ask the questions that they want to ask?”
PARIS — France abandoned plans to space out coronavirus vaccinations by six weeks instead of three.
Health Minister Olivier Veran announced maintaining the time between two injections of the Pfizer vaccine at 21 to 28 days, which is in line with WHO recommendations.
Alain Fisher, president of the scientific committee advising the government on vaccines, says the effects of a longer gap between injections remain unclear and the first shot only provides limited immunity.
He says spacing out injections could be risky at a time when France faces growing COVID-19 hospitalizations and fast-spreading new virus variants.
In early January, French Prime Minister Jean Castex had announced extending the time between shots to six weeks to allow more people to get the initial shot.
Also on Tuesday, teachers and university students marched or went on strike to demand more government support amid the pandemic.
France has registered 3.1 million cases and reported 445 new deaths Monday, bringing the total at least 73,494 confirmed deaths.
BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian officials say Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo has died from complications of COVID-19. He was 69.
President Ivan Duque says Holmes Trujillo died early Tuesday, adding: “His life was a reflection of his vocation for public service.”
Holmes Trujillo became defense minister in November 2019, after serving as foreign minister. He was also the mayor of Cali from 1988-1990.
Colombia reported more than 15,000 new cases per day in mid-January, up from about 7,000 cases in early December.
Colombia has more than 50,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed 1 million on Tuesday, and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.
Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced new daily infections rose by 13,094, bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468. Jakarta continues to be hardest-hit city in Indonesia.
The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesia launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth most populous country.
Officials say Indonesia will require almost 427 million doses, due to an estimate that 15% of doses may be wasted during the distribution process in the vast nation of more than 17,000 islands, where transportation and infrastructure are limited in places.