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Saturday July 24th, 2021 3:42PM

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By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — The White House says drugmaker Johnson & Johnson has just a “few million” doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in inventory ready to be distributed, should the Food and Drug Administration grant it emergency approval.

Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients is looking to lower expectations for the impact of approval for the promising, one-dose vaccine, which could happen in the next several weeks. The company has contracted to provide 100 million doses — enough for 100 million Americans — by the end of June.

Zients says, “We’re going to be started only with a few million of inventory.” He adds the Biden administration is working to expedite the vaccine deliveries as much as possible.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Japan begins COVID-19 vaccination drive amid Olympic worries

— Fidelity Charitable says record year of donations falls short of need during pandemic.

— Native Americans embrace vaccinations and other virus containment measures.

— COVID-19 bill would scale up ability to spot virus mutations.

— Latinos in U.S. face fear and other barriers to getting COVID-19 vaccines

— Pandemic stresses take a huge toll on college students, who struggle to pay for food and housing as jobs and internships dry up

— 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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is vaccinating on average 1.7 million Americans per day for the coronavirus, up from under 1 million a month ago.

New figures from the White House show the steady increase in the pace of vaccinations over President Joe Biden’s first month in office.

Much of the increase, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes from people receiving their second dose of the approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.

The pace of first dose vaccinations has been largely steady over the past several weeks, hovering around an average of 900,000 shots per day.

Biden is on track to blow past his goal of 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office — though the pace must pick up even further to meet his plans to vaccinate nearly all adults by the end of the summer.

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RIO DE JANEIRO -- Rio de Janeiro halted new vaccinations against COVID-19 for a week starting Wednesday due to a shortage of doses, one of a growing number of Brazilian cities that have run low on supplies and are demanding help from Brazil’s federal government.

City officials said they will continue to deliver second doses to those who have already been injected once, but have paused new shots for the elderly.

Officials say vaccines for new recipients ran out partly because they had pushed forward their schedule by one week after receiving a fresh lot of doses. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said on Monday that additional shots won’t be delivered before next week.

“We are ready and we have already vaccinated 244,852 people,” he said on his official Twitter profile. “We just need the vaccine to arrive.”

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ATLANTA — Snowy and icy weather across much of the nation has “significantly” delayed shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to Georgia, state health officials said Wednesday.

Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that normally would have arrived the first part of this week were held back by the manufacturers due to the winter weather, The Georgia Department of Public Health said in a statement.

As a result, health departments and other vaccine providers have been forced to reschedule appointments, the agency said. When those shots can be administered will depend on when vaccine shipments resume and when they arrive in Georgia, health officials said.

Delays are expected to continue through the week, officials said.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Workers at the mass vaccination site at Gillette Stadium have now given out 65,878 coronavirus shots, enough to fill every seat at the home of the New England Patriots.

Brigitte Peters, 79, of Uxbridge, received two tickets to the team’s 2021 home opener for getting the landmark shot on Tuesday evening. It will be her first Patriots game.

She said she was excited to tell her grandchildren about the tickets, and the vaccination process was easy and painless.

“It couldn’t have been better, I didn’t even feel it,” she said. “It was so easy.” The site operated by CIC Health opened Jan. 18 and started by administering about 300 vaccines per day. It is now giving about 4,000 shots per day, and plans to continue expanding.

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PORTLAND, Maine -- Maine’s attorney general has warned state health care providers against administering COVID-19 vaccines to ineligible people.

Attorney General Aaron Frey said Tuesday he issued the advisory in response to reports of improper administration of the vaccines. Officials in Maine, including Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, recently chastised MaineHealth for providing coronavirus vaccinations to out-of-state consultants hired to fight an effort to unionize nurses.

MaineHealth has called its decision to vaccinate the consultants a mistake. Frey said providers are required to follow the state’s protocols about who is eligible for the vaccine. Maine is still in an early stage of rolling out the coronavirus vaccine and is focusing on older residents and health care providers.

Frey said providers who ignore the state’s protocols risk hurting the public trust in the response to the pandemic.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka announced Wednesday its restriction on travelers from Britain entering the country due to the new variant of the coronavirus has been lifted immediately.

The foreign ministry said passengers from Britain no longer must submit to a 14-day quarantine and PCR tests.

Sri Lankan health authorities have found patients with the British variant from several parts of the country despite the restrictions.

There are 77,553 COVID-19 reported in Sri Lanka including 409 deaths.

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LOZNICA, Serbia — Dozens of Bosnian Serb medical workers have crossed into neighboring Serbia for vaccination as Belgrade seeks to show solidarity in the region after launching mass inoculation in the country.

The vaccination on Wednesday took place in three Serbian towns that are close to the border with Bosnia. Officials say several hundred health staff from Republika Srpska, which is the Serb-run half of Bosnia, will receive jabs daily.

More than 2,000 Bosnian Serb health workers have applied for vaccination in Serbia, which has mainly used China’s Sinopharm vaccines, along with Russia’s Sputnik V and to a lesser extent Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

So far, Serbia has vaccinated more than 600,000 people and has started administering second doses. The Balkan country has been among the top countries in Europe when it comes to vaccination rate.

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BERLIN — The Swiss government plans to start relaxing the country’s coronavirus restrictions on March 1, allowing shops to reopen with limited capacity.

Health Minister Alain Berset said Wednesday that the federal government also is proposing to reopen museums, libraries and some other leisure facilities, with mask-wearing and distancing rules, and allowing groups of up to 15 people to meet outdoors. He said a final decision will be made next week.

Restaurants, bars, sports facilities and cultural institutions in Switzerland have been closed for weeks, though the country didn’t shut down skiing -- unlike its neighbors. Berset said it has been able to halve new infections in a month but needs to be cautious in reopening -- with new steps being taken roughly every four weeks.

President Guy Parmelin said that “lifting all the measures in one go would be unrealistic and dangerous at this point -- it would risk quickly reducing the nothing the results we have obtained until now.”

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BRUSSELS — The European Union announced that it has agreed to buy a further 300 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine against COVID-19 and was injecting almost a quarter of a billion euros (almost $300 million) into efforts to counter the threat of coronavirus variants that are spreading on the continent.

The news came hours after Pfizer and BioNTech said they had signed a deal to deliver an additional 200 million doses of their vaccine to the bloc.

The EU Commission said its second contract with Moderna provides for an additional purchase of 150 million doses in 2021 and an option to purchase an additional 150 million in 2022. Should the EU have enough supplies by then it will consider donating the vaccine shots to lower and middle-income countries.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark could reopen large part of the society if people get tested twice a week, the Danish government said Wednesday as it announced it had bought 10 million of a new type of quick coronavirus tests.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said Denmark has bought 10 million of the new tests where the cotton swab isn’t being stuck so high up in the nose but only a few centimeters. The first batch of 400,000 had already arrived. The name of the test was not immediately available.

“They are just as good and accurate as the ones” we have been using, Heunicke said.

The Dutch government also said it is pumping more than 8.5 billion euros ($10 billion) into schools and universities to support students and teachers hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Denmark has been keeping all shops except food stores and pharmacies closed as well as banning public gatherings of more than five people. Cafes and restaurants also remain closed but can still sell takeout food. Gyms, public libraries, beauty parlors and hairdressers are shut until Feb. 28.

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LONDON — British regulators have approved the world’s first coronavirus human challenge trial, in which volunteers will be deliberately exposed to the virus to study how infection spreads.

The government said Wednesday that the U.K.’s clinical trials ethics regulator has approved the trial and it will start within a month. The aim is to develop more effective vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

Researchers are seeking up to 90 volunteers aged 18-30, who will be exposed to COVID-19 “in a safe and controlled environment.” The study will try to determine the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection.

Young people are being asked to volunteer because they have the lowest risk of serious illness from the coronavirus. Participants in the study will be monitored 24 hours a day.

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PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the hard-hit Czech Republic are rising and putting hospitals under even greater pressure, even as new cases are falling in some parts of Europe.

Three Czech counties on the borders with Germany and Poland have been under a complete lockdown due to a high occurrence of a contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in Britain. Health Minister Jan Blatny said Wednesday that if infection trend continues, the lockdowns might need to be expanded to other parts of the country in the coming weeks.

With 6,171 COVID-19 patients in hospitals and 1,196 in intensive care, the country’s health system is reaching its limits, Blatny said.

He said the ministry is considering ordering medical students to work in hospitals and planning to ask neighboring countries to treat Czechs once the hospital capacity reaches 90%.

The nation of 10.7 million had over 1.1 million confirmed cases with 18,596 deaths.

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STOCKHOLM — The Swedish government warned Wednesday of possible local lockdowns for the first time in the pandemic as it fears a new wave following an increase of cases in some regions after weeks of a relatively stable spread of the coronavirus.

“The situation is still serious,” Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said. “There is a clear risk of a third wave.”

In recent weeks, nationwide numbers in Sweden have been dropping slowly but certain regions are now on the rise.

She added that Sweden didn’t plan a shutdown today but “we do not intend to wait until it is too late.”

Last month, the Swedish parliament adopted a temporary COVID-19 -pandemic law that would allow the closing of shopping centers and shops and a halt to public transport and public activities to curb the spread of the virus. Those breaking it would face a fine.

Sweden has so far adopted mild coronavirus restrictions without enforced lockdowns and relied mainly on citizens’ own social distancing and other measures to fight the pandemic.

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UNITED NATIONS -- British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says he will urge the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for cease-fires in conflict zones to allow the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

Britain holds the council presidency this month and Raab is chairing a virtual high-level meeting of the U.N.’s most powerful body on the problem of ensuring access to vaccines in conflict areas on Wednesday. Diplomats said 11 foreign ministers are expected to speak, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Britain says more than 160 million people are at risk of being excluded from coronavirus vaccinations because they live in countries engulfed in conflict and instability including Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

“Global vaccination coverage is essential to beating coronavirus,” Raab said ahead of the meeting. “That is why the U.K. is calling for a vaccination cease-fire to allow COVID-19 vaccines to reach people living in conflict zones and for a greater global team effort to deliver equitable access.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico will stress the importance of equal access for all countries to COVID-19 vaccines at the council meeting.

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