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Thursday April 15th, 2021 12:42AM

The Latest: COVID-19 vaccinations beginning in California

By The Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES — Vaccinations against COVID-19 began Monday in California amid a huge surge in infections and hospitalizations.

Intensive care unit nurse Helen Cordova received a shot of the Pfizer vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who watched and applauded, tweeted that Cordova was one of the first Californians to be vaccinated.

The first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine left Michigan early Sunday for 145 distribution centers nationwide.

California’s initial batch was scheduled to total 325,000 doses.

The vaccine was sent to hospitals and other sites across the country that can store it at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero. Pfizer is using containers with dry ice and GPS-enabled sensors to ensure each shipment stays colder.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort

— Tens of thousands of new child brides are being married off as their families struggle amid the pandemic's economic fallout

— London and nearby areas will be placed under the highest level of restrictions starting Wednesday

— AP PHOTOS: Italian health workers still under enormous strain. One says "Christmas I will be here. Just like I had Easter here, just like August here, just like every day.”

— Scientists focus on bats for clues to prevent next pandemic

— After 110,000 virus deaths, U.S. nursing homes face vaccine fears

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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:

WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Surgeon General Jerome Adams stressed the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, while raising issues of social equity.

The officials spoke Monday at a George Washington University Hospital event Monday to launch the vaccination of health care workers in the nation’s capital.

Adams, who is Black, said it would be a tragedy if the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color got worse because of hesitancy to get the vaccine. “We know that lack of trust is a major cause for reluctance, especially in communities of color,” said Adams.

Azar said the vaccines bring hope, but “all of that hope doesn’t matter if we don’t bridge to that point” where widespread vaccination puts and end to the pandemic. So he called on Americans to double down on practicing responsible behaviors such as avoiding travel and gatherings, maintaining social distance, wearing masks and washing their hands frequently.

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TORONTO — Canada has administered its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Five front-line workers in Ontario are among the first Canadians to receive the vaccine at one of Toronto’s hospitals.

Three personal support workers, a registered nurse, and a registered practical nurse who work at the Rekai Centre nursing home are among the first to receive it.

Ontario received 6,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Sunday night and plans to give them to about 2,500 health-care workers.

Residents of two long-term care homes Quebec will be the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in that province.

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PARIS — Restaurant and bar owners, hoteliers, waitresses, and other employers and workers from France’s world-famous catering and service industries have protested in Paris for the right to work again during the pandemic.

The government has indicated that restaurants and bars might be allowed to reopen from Jan. 20 if infections don’t surge anew.

But the economy minister said Monday that he couldn’t guarantee that that date would hold.

About 1,000 people protested in Paris, pleading for more financial aid and the right to reopen eateries and watering holes that have been forced to close to curb infections.

Among them, retired chef Michel Solignac fretted that the restaurant that he spent decades developing before handing it over to his son could go under if they can’t reopen soon.

“We have to cling on,” he said. “Psychologically, I don’t know how I would react if I was obliged to shut down. It really would hurt.”

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LONDON — Britain’s health secretary says London and surrounding areas will be placed under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions starting Wednesday as infections rise rapidly in the capital.

Matt Hancock said Monday that a new variant of the virus may be to blame. He added that the government must take swift action after seeing “very sharp, exponential rises” in Greater London and nearby Kent and Essex. He said that in some areas, cases are doubling every seven days.

He told lawmakers that the surge of COVID-19 cases in southern England may be associated with a new variant of coronavirus. He didn’t provide details about the virus variant, but stressed there was nothing to suggest it was more likely to cause serious disease, or that it wouldn’t respond to a vaccine.

“We’ve currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the south of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas,” he said. “And numbers are increasing rapidly.”

Hancock said officials are assessing the new strand of the virus, and that the World Health Organization has been notified.

—-

TAMPA, Fla. — A 31-year-old nurse at Tampa General Hospital rolled up her left shirt sleeve on Monday and became the first person in Florida to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccination was held during a news conference at the hospital, with Gov. Ron DeSantis looking on.

“This is a really, really significant milestone in terms of combatting the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

Florida joined other states across the country to start administering the vaccination.

Earlier Monday, DeSantis and others watched as a FedEx truck pulled up to the hospital with the Pfizer vaccine, which was just approved by the FDA for emergency use last week. The governor signed for the shipment and watched as the vaccines were placed in a deep freeze storage unit, at a temperature of minus 79 degrees. The hospital received 3,900 vials on Monday. Each vial has five doses.

“This is 20,000 doses of hope,” said John Couris, president and chief executive officer, Tampa General Hospital.

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NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana administered its first coronavirus vaccines Monday at a New Orleans area hospital.

Workers at the facility who regularly encounter COVID-19 patients got the vaccine as Gov. John Bel Edwards watched the immunizations.

Dr. Leonardo Seoane, chief academic officer for Ochsner Health, was one of the first employees to get vaccinated. A Cuban American, Seoane called it “a privilege” and urged “all of my Hispanic brothers and sisters to do it. It’s OK.”

Louisiana’s first shipments of an estimated 39,000 Pfizer vaccines this week all will go directly to hospitals to administer. Other hospitals around Louisiana expect to receive their first doses later in the week. Edwards traveled to Jefferson Parish to see the vaccines being administered in person.

“Today is the beginning of the end because I just saw some shots going into arms here,” the Democratic governor said in the livestreamed video.

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SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego strip club is still open despite a vow from California’s attorney general vowing to take legal action if it does not close to comply with the state’s stay-at-home order that was issued earlier this month.

The lawyer for Pacers Showgirls International said Monday that a court order issued last month makes it clear the business is protected from restrictions issued by San Diego County and state officials.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday. The judge is expected to decide whether the preliminary injunction the issued last month allowing two strip clubs to remain open extends to the new stay-at-home order.

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NEW YORK — Coronavirus vaccinations have begun in New York.

A nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens got what Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the first shot given in the state’s campaign to vaccinate front line health care workers.

“I feel hopeful today. Relieved,” said critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay after getting a shot in the arm.

The head of the hospital system, Michael Dowling, stood over Lindsay as a doctor, Michelle Chester, administered the dose. Cuomo watched via a livestream.

All four applauded after the shot was given. “This is the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s a long tunnel,” Cuomo said.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas health care workers have begun receiving the first of the state’s coronavirus vaccines amid an ongoing fall surge in cases that has left hospitals stressed.

Spokeswoman Roz Hutchinson said Monday that five employees of the Via Christi Ascension health care system received shots at its St. Francis hospital in Wichita, including a critical care nurse, a housekeeper for a COVID-19 unit and a respiratory therapist.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has tightened border entry rules ahead of Christmas and New Year holidays fearing further surge in new coronavirus infections when thousands arrive from abroad.

Epidemiologists said Monday that starting next week foreign citizens coming to Serbia will need a negative test for the virus while Serbia’s citizens will have to self-isolate for ten days upon arrival or provide the negative test.

The measure aims to prevent additional rise in infections in the Balkan country whose health system is already suffering under the burden of thousands of daily new cases.

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O’FALLON, Mo. — Health care workers in both of Missouri’s urban areas received doses of the coronavirus vaccine Monday afternoon — the first people in the state outside of clinical trial participants to be vaccinated.

Thousands of other medical workers across the state will soon follow now that vaccinations have begun at Truman Medical Centers/University Health in Kansas City, Missouri, and at the Mercy hospital system in the St. Louis area.

Frontline medical workers such as those who work in emergency rooms and COVID-19 units are the first to get the vaccine at Truman.

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Mark Steele, Truman’s executive chief clinical officer, said in a statement. “But it’s a very long tunnel. And so while the vaccine has arrived, we urge the public to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.”

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NEW YORK — A U.S. senator wants major streaming services to give Americans an incentive to stay home and stay safe during the holiday season.

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said Monday he’s asked six major streaming services to temporarily make their movies, television series and other content free to encourage people to stay home and not spread the coronavirus.

King made his request in a letter to the leaders of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney +, Apple TV +, Hulu and HBO Max.

“We encourage you to provide temporary service at no cost to non-subscribers as a way to encourage people to make responsible choices and safely navigate this holiday season,” King wrote in his letter.

King's office says it didn't get an immediately reply from any of the streaming services.

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THE HAGUE — The head of the European Union’s regulatory agency has defended the speed of its experts team after Germany’s health minister demanded that the agency work faster to approve a coronavirus vaccine and bring an end to the suffering on the continent.

Emer Cooke of the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, said Monday that the agency was working “around the clock towards the licensing of the first COVID-19 vaccine.”

Cooke said while EMA’s expert committee was expected to give its recommendation by Dec. 29 at the latest, “these timelines are of course constantly under review.”

“European citizens have told us they want a fast approval, but more importantly they want a thorough evaluation of the benefits and the risks of the vaccine, so that they can be confident it is safe, effective and of high quality,” Cooke added.

Expressing impatience, German Health Minister Jens Spahn had said in tweets Sunday that Germany, which has created more than 400 vaccination centers and has activated about 10,000 doctors and medical staff to start mass vaccinations as early as Tuesday, was hamstrung by the lack of regulatory approval.

It was especially galling because the vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer has already been authorized for use in Britain, the United States, Canada and other countries.

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TORONTO — Canadian health officials in Quebec and Ontario plan to administer the first COVID-19 vaccines on Monday.

Residents of two long-term care homes in Quebec will be the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in that province. Francine Dupuis of the Montreal regional health agency says health care workers have been ready to administer the doses at Maimonides Geriatric Centre since Friday. Dupuis says the agency expects to receive 1,950 initial doses, which will first go to residents, to Maimonides staff and then to health care workers in other nursing homes.

In Quebec City, residents of the Saint-Antoine nursing home will receive the vaccine first, followed by health care workers there.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office says a health care worker will receive the first dose at a hospital in Toronto. The province was to receive 6,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this weekend, and plans to give them to approximately 2,500 health-care workers in the first phase of its immunization plan.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says he has gone into isolation after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

It says Netanyahu himself was tested on Sunday and Monday, and that both tests came back negative. He will remain in isolation until Friday. Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials have periodically gone into isolation after possible exposure to the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Israel has signed agreements to purchase millions of doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and plans to begin administering them later this month. Israel has more than 17,500 active cases and has reported 3,003 deaths.

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WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump is cheering the first coronavirus vaccines being administered after a speedy development. The largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history got underway Monday with health care workers being inoculated.

“First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!” Trump tweeted.

The kickoff of the U.S. vaccination program comes on the same day that the country is expected to surpass 300,000 confirmed virus deaths.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s statistical agency said Monday that it had recorded a total of 8,088 deaths from all causes in November — the highest mortality ever reported in the Scandinavian country since the first year of the Spanish flu that raged across the world from 1918 through 1920.

In November 1918, 16,600 people died in the Scandinavian country, said Tomas Johansson of Statistics Sweden.

The Spanish flu was one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded human history and is estimated to have killed up to 50 million people. An estimated 500 million people were infected with the disease worldwide.

This year Sweden, which did not go for a national coronavirus lockdown, has seen 320,098 cases and 7,514 virus-related deaths, a death toll much higher than neighbors Norway, Finland and Denmark.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the government’s COVID-19 vaccine effort, said Monday he is “as confident as we can be” that the vaccine will get into the right hands and that if there are problems in the distribution and inoculation process, adjustments can be made quickly.

“We have rehearsed, tested, did mock deliveries, every single step of the process in order to make sure we understand how it’s working,” Slaoui told “CBS This Morning.” “We also have made sure that the first 2.9 million vaccines are being distributed over three days in order to make sure that if there are any adjustments we can make, we have an opportunity to make them.”

Slaoui said he was concerned about “accidental loss of temperature control” during the distribution process but added: “The unknown and unpredictable may happen but we’re prepared to deal with that as quickly as we detect it.”

He said that by the middle of March, there will be enough vaccine to have inoculated 100 million Americans, mostly those in high-risk groups. By the end of May or the middle of June most Americans should have access to the vaccines, he said.

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