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Saturday January 23rd, 2021 9:21AM
8:38AM ( 43 minutes ago ) News Alert

The Latest: Turkey has no plans to require vaccinations

By The Associated Press
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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says his country has no plans to make vaccination against the new coronavirus mandatory but will work to convince the public about the safety of the vaccines.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting of the country’s scientific advisory council on Wednesday, Fahrettin Koca also said people who contracted the virus in the past four to six months, children, and pregnant women would not be vaccinated.

Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of the vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, with the first shipment due to arrive in the coming days. Turkey is also engaged in talks to obtain other vaccines and hopes that a Turkish vaccine will be ready for use in April.

Turkey is experiencing a surge in infections with confirmed cases of COVID-19 hovering above 30,000 per day. The country’s death toll since March has topped 15,000.

The government will assess the effectiveness of recently imposed weekend and evening curfews before deciding whether to impose stricter lockdowns, the minister said.

Koca said a total of 216 health workers have died since the start of the outbreak.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

About 50% of Americans will take the new coronavirus vaccine, according to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey. About 25% of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated, taking a wait and see approach.

Canada health regulators approve Pfizer’s vaccine, days ahead of possible approval in the United States. Health Canada says 249,000 doses of the vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech will arrive this month and be administered within days.

— EU drug regulator hacked, data on COVID-19 vaccine accessed

— UK probing if 2 allergic reactions linked to vaccine

— Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf tests positive for coronavirus

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s governor is re-imposing restrictions on hospitals from performing elective surgeries to free up hospital capacity with the state’s steep recent increases in serious COVID-19 illnesses.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that hospitals were being directed to postpone all non-urgent, in-patient surgeries from Dec. 16 through Jan. 3. State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the surgery restrictions will allow hospitals to shift health care workers to help care for patients with COVID-19.

Holcomb said Indiana is “on fire” with coronavirus spread as the number of Indiana counties with the highest risk level of coronavirus spread more than doubled in the state health department’s weekly update. The tracking map labels 36 of the state’s 92 counties in the most dangerous red category, up from 16 a week ago. All other counties are in the next riskiest orange rating.

Total positive cases statewide stood at 16,125 and 3,282 had died from the disease in the state.

Holcomb, a Republican, said he was extending the statewide mask order and toughening restrictions on crowd sizes that he reinstated last month. The new rules will prevent local health departments from allowing exemptions for social gatherings of more than 25 people in counties with red ratings and more than 50 people in orange-rated counties.

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A Wyoming Department of Health official who falsely described the coronavirus and development of vaccines against it as a communist plot has resigned.

A health department spokeswoman said Wednesday that Igor Shepherd submitted his resignation Tuesday and that department officials accepted it the same day. Shepherd made the remarks at an event in Colorado last month, and they undermined Wyoming’s public health efforts to contain the new coronavirus.

Shepherd couldn’t be reached for comment. A listed phone number for him did not work, and as of Wednesday he had not returned social media and work phone messages left last Friday.

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PHOENIX — Arizona’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 7,000 on Wednesday and the state reported 108 deaths.

The state registered 4,444 confirmed coronavirus cases, increasing the state’s known totals to 382,601.

The Department of Health Services says on Twitter that “a large percentage” of the 108 deaths reported Wednesday were due to reviewing past death certificates and determining the deaths were from COVID-19. That periodic process results in a larger than normal daily report of deaths.

According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Tuesday reached 3,287, up 130 from Monday. It included 766 patients in intensive care unit beds.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Gov. Kay Ivey extended a statewide mask mandate until Jan. 22 but declined to order additional restrictions.

Ivey announced the six-week extension during a news conference at the Alabama Capitol. The order, which requires face coverings to be worn in public when within 6 feet with people outside your household, was to expire Friday.

Alabama had a record 4,436 cases reported on Wednesday and 50 more deaths. The state positivity rate is 34%. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Alabama increased in the past two weeks from 24 on Nov. 24 to 43 on Tuesday.

The Republican governor says while vaccine availability is “just around the corner,” the state must weather the upcoming months.

Ivey recommended people wear masks and wash their hands to try to limit the spread of the virus, saying she’s “just trying to urge you to use the common sense the good Lord gave each of us to be smart and considerate of other.”

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ROME — Italy’s coronavirus infections are leveling off, with 12,756 new cases reported in a sign that monthlong restrictions are having an impact.

There were 499 deaths in the past day, a lower daily increase than last week when Italy hit a pandemic-record 993 deaths. Overall, Italy has 61,739 confirmed deaths, nearly eclipsing Britain as the European country with the highest death toll.

Officials hope the downward trend continues through Christmas and New Year’s. The government has imposed travel restrictions during the holidays and maintained curfews and restaurant closures at night.

Also Wednesday, the first Alitalia flight landed in Rome from New York with passengers tested before departure and upon arrival. As a result, they aren’t required to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed by Italy.

According to Marco Troncone, CEO of Rome Airports, the industry hopes the quarantine-free flights will extend to other routes.

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KALISPELL, Mont. — In northwestern Montana, Flathead County health officials reported 17 deaths related to COVID-19 in an 18-day period ending Monday.

Five deaths were reported Monday and involved residents of a long-term care facility. On Wednesday, Montana reported 747 more cases and eight more deaths. There are 490 people hospitalized.

Residents of the county of about 104,000, which includes part of Glacier National Park, have a strong anti-mask sentiment. That’s based on public comment received on a late October proposal to increase masking and social distancing requirements. About 60% of the people asked the health board to reject the new restrictions, arguing they would cripple the economy and violate individual freedoms. The rest say additional restrictions should have been put in place earlier.

The interim public health officer is resigning when her contract is up at the end of the year, citing a lack of support by the Flathead City-County Board of Health and the county commission for measures to control the coronavirus.

Tamalee St. James Robinson’s resignation letter says it’s clear the actions of the commissioners and health board “have been at cross purposes with the goal of maintaining the county’s public health.”

Montana has registered more than 70,000 confirmed cases and at least 771 confirmed deaths.

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WASHINGTON — A new poll find only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines even as states prepare to begin months of vaccinations.

The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated when their turn comes. Roughly another quarter say they won’t.

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to decide whether to allow emergency use of two candidates.

Many on the fence have safety concerns and want to see how the initial rollout fares. The coronavirus has killed nearly 290,000 Americans. The U.S. also leads the world with 15.2 million confirmed cases.

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TORONTO — Canada’s health regulator has approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Health Canada posted on it is website that the vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech is authorized. Canada is set to receive up to 249,000 doses this month and 4 million doses by March.

The Canadian government has purchased 20 million doses of the vaccine, which requires people to receive two doses each, and it has the option to buy 56 million more. Health Canada is reviewing three other vaccine candidates, including one from Moderna.

The government has said 14 distribution centers will be in large Canadian cities initially. There will be at least one in each province and two each in Canada’s four largest provinces.

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AMSTERDAM —- The European Medicines Agency, which is evaluating requests for conditional marketing authorization for coronavirus vaccines, says it has been targeted in a cyberattack.

The Amsterdam-based agency says it quickly launched a full investigation, in close cooperation with law enforcement and other entities.

The EMA declined to provide more details of the attack while the investigation was continuing. It wouldn’t be the first time an entity linked with coronavirus vaccines has been targeted by cybercriminals.

Last month, Microsoft said it had detected attempts by state-backed Russian and North Korean hackers to steal valuable data from leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers.

Microsoft said most of the targets — located in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States — were “directly involved in researching vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.” It didn’t name the targets but said most had vaccine candidates in various stages of clinical trials.

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates says a Chinese coronavirus vaccine tested in the federation of sheikhdoms is 86% effective, though it released few details.

The UAE, home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, conducted a trial starting in September of the vaccine by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm. Volunteers between 18 and 60 years old received two doses of the vaccine over 28 days.

The UAE’s Health and Prevention Ministry announced the results in a statement on the state-run WAM news agency, saying “the analysis shows no serious safety concerns.”

The Sinopharm vaccine has been approved for emergency use in a few countries and the company is still conducting late-stage clinical trials in 10 countries.

The shot relies on a tested technology, using a killed virus to deliver the vaccine, similar to immunizations for polio.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine officials have announced tighter lockdown restrictions in January in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Ukraine registered 12,585 new cases and 276 deaths -- the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal says restaurants, bars, malls, gyms, theaters, cinemas and other non-essential businesses will be closed between Jan. 8-24.

Mass public events will be banned, and schools and other educational facilities, except day care centers, will be on vacation. Only grocery shops, pharmacies, banks, post offices, hotels and public transportation will operate.

Ukraine’s health officials have reported a total of 845,343 confirmed cases and more than 14,000 confirmed deaths.

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STOCKHOLM — A medical official in Stockholm warned the intensive care units are almost at full capacity and need more staff.

Bjorn Eriksson, health director in Stockholm Region, says the number of patients with coronavirus admitted to intensive care had increased in the past days.

“Patients with Covid 19 are so ill that they need intensive care,” Eriksson said. Eriksson says he requested Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare to send more health care staff to the capital.

Bjorn Persson of Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute hospital told the Dagens Nyheter daily that 99% of Stockholm’s 169 intensive care units are in use -- not all with COVID-19 patients.

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LONDON — British regulators warned that people with a history of serious allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine while they investigate two adverse reactions on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.

The U.K.’s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is looking into whether the reactions were linked to the vaccine. The two people affected were staff members with the National Health Service who had a history of allergies, and both are recovering. Authorities have not specified their reactions.

In the meantime, the regulator has issued the warning for anyone with a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food. That includes anyone who has been told to carry an adrenaline shot or others who have had potentially fatal allergic reactions.

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HONOLULU — The Hawaii National Guard has received approval for an extension of federal funds to keep assisting the state’s coronavirus response through March.

Hawaii Public Radio reported the funding for National Guard units in Hawaii and 47 other states was scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

About 800 Hawaii National Guard members work daily throughout the state on tasks related to virus mitigation including contact tracing, testing and the state’s incoming traveler program. The Guard’s activities cost about $8.5 million monthly, with the federal government providing 75% of the funds. Hawaii pays about $2 million per month.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has advocated tougher restrictions on public life as the country reports 590 deaths, its highest single-day coronavirus death toll.

Germany is gradually moving toward a tighter lockdown, at least for a limited period after Christmas. Cases are increasing despite a partial shutdown on Nov. 2.

Merkel has consistently advocated decisive action during the pandemic but has often had to move more slowly because Germany’s 16 state governments are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions.

Merkel noted a national academy of scientists and academics on Tuesday recommended Germans reduce their social contacts starting next week and put in place a “hard lockdown” from Dec. 24 to Jan. 10.

“We would do well to really take seriously what scientists tell us,” she says. Also, Germany announced it will distribute high-quality masks for the elderly and high-risk patients before Christmas.

Germany registered 20,815 new cases on Wednesday, compared with 17,270 a week earlier. The country of 83 million people has recorded 1.22 million cases and 20,000 confirmed deaths.

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JERUSALEM — The number of Israeli households living under the poverty line has grown by nearly 50% during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an anti-poverty organization’s report published Wednesday.

Israel has seen unemployment surge to over 20% since the country first imposed a nationwide lockdown at the start of the outbreak in March. The country’s vital tourism industry has shrunk to virtually nil and thousands of businesses have closed. The Israeli government has been at loggerheads over passing a national budget, resulting in major cutbacks to social services.

According to Latet’s report, the number of Israeli households living in poverty rose from 20.1% to 29.3% in 2020. It says an estimated 850,000 households in Israel lack essential housing, education, healthcare and food, with 268,000 falling into poverty since the start of the pandemic.

The report by Israel’s largest anti-poverty NGO was based on the findings of a series of surveys and studies conducted by Latet from July to October 2020.

Israel, with 9.25 million people, has recorded more than 348,000 coronavirus cases and at least 2,932 confirmed deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

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