The Latest: French PM plans to get vaccinated as an example

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Religious leaders wait to receive a shot of a Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine during vaccination for various religious leaders in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Firdia Lisnawati

AP

PARIS — France’s prime minister says he wants to boost confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine by getting an injection as soon as his government authorizes its use again.

France suspended AstraZeneca jabs on Monday while it waits for the European regulator to clear up any doubts about possible side effects.

At age 55 and with no known underlying health problems, French Prime Minister Jean Castex isn’t, strictly speaking, among the groups yet eligible for vaccination in France, which has prioritized injections for the most vulnerable.

But speaking to broadcaster BFM-TV, Castex said Tuesday that he wants to get an AstraZeneca injection to set an example.

“Given what is happening, what has just happened, with AstraZeneca, I told myself, in effect, that it would be wise that I get vaccinated very quickly, as soon as the suspension is, I hope, lifted,” he said.

Castex added that he wants to demonstrate to his fellow citizens “that vaccination is the exit door from this crisis.”

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

VACCINES: More than 72.1 million people, or 21.7% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 39 million people, or 11.8% of the population, have completed their vaccination.

CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 67,570 on March 1 to 55,332 on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 1,991 on March 1 to 1,356 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

STATE VACCINATION RATES: The percentage of the population that received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the CDC: New Mexico (29.3%); Alaska (28.1%); South Dakota (27.6). States with the lowest rates: District of Columbia (17.9%); Alabama (17.4%); Georgia (15.9%).

— US schools weigh whether to seat students closer together

— EU regulator ‘convinced’ AstraZeneca benefit outweighs risk

— 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:

PHOENIX — Just over 1 million Arizona residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, state officials announced Tuesday.

That represents nearly 14% of the state’s estimated population of nearly 7.3 million or about one of every seven residents.

“Every dose of the COVID-19 vaccine administered to an Arizona resident represents an essential step forward in our fight against COVID-19,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement.

The Department of Health Services said nearly 2.6 million doses had been administered as of Tuesday morning to over 1.6 million people. The doses included the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The state’s vaccination program began in December and now includes four large outdoor state-run sites, including three in metro Phoenix and one in Tucson. Vaccines also are being administered across the state at county sites, pharmacies, congregate care facilities and other locations.

The health services department said it is preparing to allow vaccinations for all people 16 or older by May 1 and also preparing to move some outdoor vaccination operations to indoor locations or to nighttime hours as summer approaches to protect staff, volunteers and vaccine patients from extreme heat.

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HELENA, Mont. — Montana’s governor says all state residents will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on April 1.

Gov. Greg Gianforte’s announcement on Tuesday comes after President Joe Biden said last week the vaccine would be available to all adults in the country by May 1.

Vaccines are currently available to Montana front line health care workers, residents 60 or older and those with certain medical conditions.

Educators are eligible through a federal partnership with several pharmacies in the state.

Over 142,000 Montana residents, accounting for 13% of the state’s population, have received the vaccine doses necessary to become fully immunized to the virus.

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HONOLULU — More tourists traveled to Hawaii on Saturday than the state has seen in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

About 26,400 trans-Pacific and interisland travelers were screened by the state’s Safe Travels program on Saturday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

That’s Hawaii’s busiest day since coronavirus restrictions caused travel to plummet last year.

Data compiled by the Hawaii Tourism Authority showed that about 18,700 travelers were flying on Saturday for vacation or pleasure.

The Transportation Security Administration said Friday was its busiest screening day since March 15, 2020, with nearly 1.36 million people going through checkpoints in the United States.

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada health officials say people age 55 and older can self-report to their pharmacists any underlying health conditions that make them eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

A state statistics official said Tuesday that as eligibility broadened this week in the statewide coronavirus inoculation process, deaths from COVID-19 have fallen to an average of about four per day. That number peaked at 40 per day in mid-January.

Officials widened efforts to vaccinate to people with underlying conditions, disabilities and the homeless at retail pharmacies, including at supermarkets. It’s being called a step toward getting more shots in more arms statewide.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Appointments to get the coronavirus vaccine in Mississippi opened up for everyone over the age of 16 on Tuesday, and thousands of residents rushed to book their shots.

Robin McCall made appointments for her 17-year-old twin daughters. She has a 15-year-old son who has been treated for leukemia.

“He has a compromised immune system so these vaccines for our family are very important for him,” McCall said. McCall was already able to get vaccinated weeks ago because he has a qualifying health condition.

As of Tuesday, 592,500 people in Mississippi had received one dose of the vaccine, according to the state Department of Health. Around 330,000 residents were fully vaccinated. The entire state has a population of around 3 million.

People can get vaccinated at state-run drive-thru sites in counties across the state, at private clinics and community health centers and some pharmacies, like Walmart and Walgreens.

People eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine can make an appointment at COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID-19 call center at 1-877-978-6453.

Before Tuesday, vaccinations in Mississippi were available for anyone ages 50 and older, staff at K-12 schools, first responders, health care workers and those who are at least 16 and have health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the virus.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is making the coronavirus vaccine available to 1 million more people in the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced the state was opening up the vaccine to those in 1C of its vaccination plan. That category includes food service, prisoners and people with certain health conditions that put them at risk.

Hutchinson cited President Joe Biden’s goal to make all adults in the country eligible for the vaccine by May 1. He also cited a slowdown in demand for the vaccine, particularly in Arkansas’ rural areas.

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WASHINGTON — More than 22 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed in the next week, a new record in the U.S. fight to contain the coronavirus.

The White House announced that states will receive more than 16 million doses of the three approved coronavirus vaccines, slightly higher than last week. The balance will go to federally administered programs, including mass vaccination sites, retail pharmacies and community health centers.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors on a Tuesday call of their allotments. Most of this week’s doses will be from Moderna and Pfizer, but some supply of Johnson & Johnson is beginning to ship.

The supply is set to accelerate even further next week when the federal government expects J&J to begin shipping 4-to-6 million doses per week.

The increased supply comes as more states are lifting eligibility criteria for the vaccines ahead of President Joe Biden’s mandate that all adults be eligible for vaccination by May 1.

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ROME — Italy registered 502 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late January.

The health ministry says that increased the known toll to 103,001 deaths, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain.

Admissions continue to rise at Italy’s intensive care units and other hospital departments for patients with COVID-19. Italy is struggling to tamp down a surge of cases, including among young people. Health experts say it is fueled in part by variants of the coronavirus.

With nearly 20,400 new cases in the last 24 hours, Italy has totaled 3.2 million confirmed infections. A slowdown in delivery of vaccines by manufacturers and other logistics problems had bogged down Italy’s vaccine rollout, but the pace of injections has improved in recent days.

On Monday, Italy joined several other European nations in temporarily suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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QUEBEC CITY — A Canadian company is moving its plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate into final-stage testing.

Medicago announced Tuesday it will enroll up to 30,000 volunteers in a study in Canada and the U.S., and potentially expanding to several other countries.

Medicago uses plants as living factories to grow virus-like particles, which mimic the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. British partner GlaxoSmithKline contributes an immune-boosting chemical called an adjuvant to the vaccine.

While numerous COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out around the world, global health authorities are looking to additional candidates in the pipeline in hopes of eventually increasing the supply.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s drug agency says it is “unlikely” an AstraZeneca shot was the cause of death of a 91-year-old woman who died three days after receiving it.

Croatia’s medicine agency says an investigation has revealed the lung blood clotting she suffered is unrelated to her receiving the shot.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is the main shot used in Croatia’s vaccination campaign, which has been suffering from a general shortage of shots.

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GENEVA — A World Health Organization spokesman says a widely expected report by a team of experts who travelled to China to look into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic is “likely” to be pushed back until next week.

Spokesman Christian Lindmeier says the report was “simply not ready” and the team members who have been working with Chinese officials to draft it “want to get it right.”

“What we hear from the technical experts — from the mission members — is that the report mostly likely now will come out next week,” Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing on Tuesday.

The U.N. health agency previously revised its plans to first publish a summary report, then a longer version, opting instead to issue a single full report. The team leader, WHO’s Peter Ben Embarek, said this month the plans were to release the report in the week of March 15.

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PARIS — France’s health minister is praising the AstraZeneca vaccine as a “precious tool” against the coronavirus and hopes the government will quickly rescind its decision to suspend its use.

France is among European countries waiting for the European regulator to clear up any doubts about reported side effects. France suspended shots of the vaccine on Monday, while the European Medicines Agency investigates reports of blood clots.

The agency said Tuesday it remains convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the risks, and it expects to issue a recommendation about its use on Thursday.

Veran also reiterated complaints voiced by France about delays in deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine. He says deliveries expected in the coming three weeks are “infinitesimal — I weigh the word — compared to the promises that were made.”

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NEW DELHI, India — India pharmaceutical company Gland Pharma has agreed to make 252 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in India.

Gland Pharma is a subsidiary of Chinese pharmaceutical company Fosun Pharma. This is the second deal for manufacturing between Russia’s sovereign fund and an Indian company. Earlier, it had said that Indian company Hetero Biopharma would make 100 million doses of the vaccine annually. India has been pledged 125 million doses.

According to this agreement, Gland Pharma will make the vaccines in its facilities and then fill it into vials. The company is likely to start production between July and September, while deliveries are estimated to take place between October and December.

In November, Russia’s sovereign fund had announced a pact with another Indian drugmaker, Dr. Reddy’s, to conduct trials and distribute the doses.

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