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Sunday June 20th, 2021 5:57PM

The Latest: WH: Will direct states to allow shots for May 1

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration says it has the authority to direct states to open up their vaccine supply to all adult Americans by May 1 using the same mechanism it used to order teachers and childcare workers eligible this month.

States are required to distribute the federally provided vaccines in accordance with guidelines set by the Department of Health and Human Services. The department will issue a directive that states allow all adults to be vaccinated under their eligibility criteria by May 1.

The federal government also controls supply directly through the federal retail pharmacy program, federally-run mass vaccination sites and federally qualified community health centers. It could use those mechanisms as well to expand eligibility

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— AP-NORC Poll: People of color bear burnt of virus economic toll

— The pandemic has taken a huge toll on children's mental health.

— President Joe Biden aims for quicker shots, ‘independence from this virus’

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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:

PRAGUE — The health authorities in the Czech Republic have administered over 1 million coronavirus vaccine shots.

Health Minister Jan Blatny says the vaccination program is picking up speed. So far, almost 288,000 people in the nation of 10.7 million received both shots.

The number of shots surpassed 44,000 in the previous two days, a record. Blatny says the country will receive 1.13 million vaccines of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca in March. The country expects another 2.1 million in April when the first batch of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson is scheduled to arrive.

The minister says unlike some other countries, the Czech Republic will continue administering AstraZeneca vaccines.

There were 11,083 new cases reported on Thursday. The country has 22,865 confirmed deaths.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s minister for planning and development says a third wave of coronavirus is under way.

Asad Umar says the virus detected Britain was found among new cases in Pakistan. Officials say scores of people returned home from Britain in recent months.

Deaths and confirmed cases from the coronavirus have increased steadily since March 1, when Pakistan resumed regular classes at schools. Pakistan reported 54 deaths and 2,701 new cases on Friday. The country has registered 600,198 cases and 13,430 confirmed deaths.

The latest spike in cases comes days after Pakistan started vaccinating people who are 60 or above. Pakistan is currently using China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which was donated by Beijing last month.

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NEW YORK — A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than white Americans to have experienced job and other income losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who have lost income are more likely to be in a deep financial hole. The poll finds that 62% of Hispanic Americans and 54% of Black Americans have lost some form of household income during the pandemic, including job losses, pay cuts, fewer hours and unpaid leave. That compares with 45% of white Americans.

Black and Hispanic Americans being more likely than white Americans to say they are close to someone who has died from COVID-19 and less likely to have received a vaccination. The pandemic has killed Black and Hispanic Americans at rates disproportionate to their population in the U.S., according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency says product information for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should be updated to note that cases of severe allergic reactions have been reported.

The suggested update is based on a review of 41 reported cases of anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reactions, that were identified among 5 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. In a statement on Friday, the Amsterdam-based EU regulator said it concluded that “a link to the vaccine was likely in at least some of these cases.”

Such allergic reactions are a recognized rare side effect to numerous vaccines and have been reported for other COVID-19 vaccines, including the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech. The EMA authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in all adults across its 27 member countries in late January.

The agency also says it is reviewing whether COVID-19 shots made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca might be causing low levels of blood platelets in some patients, a condition that could lead to bruising and bleeding.

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BERLIN — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is calling for more transparency in how coronavirus vaccines are being distributed to European Union member nations, saying numbers indicate some countries are receiving more than their fair share.

Kurz spoke in Vienna on Friday, saying when he and other European leaders had received the latest numbers, “many couldn’t believe their ears.”

He said even though the EU had agreed upon even distribution of the vaccines on a per capita basis, as of the end of June the Netherlands had received double the number per person than Croatia, for example.

Austria, he said without giving any figures, was somewhere in the middle of the group.

He cited Bulgaria and Latvia as two other countries where deliveries had been low, and Malta as another country that had received far more.

“This is a clear contradiction of the political goal of the European Union that every member nation gets the same number of vaccine doses per person,” he said.

He said that discrepancies had to be rectified, so that it doesn’t turn out that some countries have completed vaccination programs while others still have months to go while waiting on doses.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia will close down all nonessential shops, bars and restaurants this weekend as the Balkan country faces a surge in coronavirus infections.

The government-appointed crisis body said Friday said the measures will take effect on Friday evening and last until Monday. Authorities will decide on Monday how to proceed, officials said.

The decision is expected to be formally endorsed by the government later Friday.

Serbia has recorded more than 4,000 new infections daily in the past week as doctors have warned that hospitals are rapidly filling up and that medical staff are exhausted after a year of the pandemic.

Senior health official Zoran Gojkovic says the government hopes that it vaccination program will also get infections under control in the coming weeks. He says new measures also include children in higher primary school grades switching to remote classes next week.

A wave of new infections is sweeping across the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, driven mainly by new virus variants that are more contagious.

Serbia has vaccinated more than 1.5 million of its 7 million people with at least one shot from China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Russia’s Sputnik V or AstraZeneca, which is among the highest rates of inoculations in Europe.

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BERLIN —The German government said it was in contact with U.S. officials about the question of vaccine supplies, but stressed that the European Commission had the lead when it came to procuring shots for member states.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the “this topic is raised again and again by the chancellor and other members of the federal government” in talks with non-EU countries.

Seibert added that the EU “has funded to a large degree the research development and production of vaccines” and that the 27-nation bloc is an important production site.

“This benefits not just people in Europe, but the whole world,” he said, adding that the EU has said the bloc has approved the export of more than 34 million doses of vaccines to over 30 countries in the past six weeks.

“We support this. On the other hand we note that while we have exported to many countries around the world, nothing or almost nothing has been exported from the U.S. or Great Britain.”

“And this is of course a topic that the European Commission, representing its member states, takes up with the companies concerned but also with the governments of other countries.”

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BERLIN — Germany’s top health official expressed regret Friday that some neighboring countries have paused their use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine following reports of blood clots in some people, despite the lack of any evidence the shot was responsible.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said while Germany takes reports of possible side effects from vaccines “very, very seriously,” both the European Medicines Agency and Germany’s own vaccine oversight body have said they have no evidence of an increase in dangerous blood clots in connection with the shots.

“I regret that on the basis of the knowledge of Friday morning some countries in the European Union have suspended vaccinations with AstraZeneca,” Spahn told reporters in Berlin.

Denmark was the first to temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine Thursday after reports of blood clots in some people. The Nordic nation’s health authority said the decision was “based on a precautionary principle” and that one person who developed a blood clot after vaccination had died.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria has temporarily suspended inoculations with the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and demanded safety guarantees from the European Union.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told a cabinet meeting that the immunization with this vaccine will be suspended, until the European Medicines Agency issues a written statement that it is safe.

“Until all doubts are dispelled and experts guarantee that it holds no risk for people, we are stopping immunization using that vaccine,” Borissov said.

Bulgaria becomes the latest European country to suspend vaccination using the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab following reports of blood clots in some people.

Bulgaria has so far administered some 320,000 doses of the EU's three allowed vaccines. Due to a shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, most people have received an AstraZeneca-Oxford jab.

The nation of 7 million has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in the past weeks. Bulgaria on Tuesday reported 3,121 new confirmed cases, bringing their total number to 272,700 with 11,094 deaths.

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HONG KONG — Hong Kong reported 60 new coronavirus infections on Friday, the highest number of infections in the city since late January, prompting fears of a fifth wave of the virus.

Of the new infections, 47 were linked to an outbreak at a gym in the Sai Ying Pun neighborhood that is popular among expatriates. Health authorities have ordered all employees of gyms in Hong Kong to be screened for the virus. The gym cluster has so far infected 64 people

Authorities have also ordered gyms to step up safety measures, including requiring members to wear masks while working out.

The city has so far reported 11,211 cases of the coronavirus, with 203 deaths.

As of Thursday, 145,800 people in Hong Kong have received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Since the vaccination program began, four people have died days after receiving a Sinovac shot, although experts have concluded that the first two cases had no direct links to the vaccine. Experts are still investigating the other cases.

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BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the country should prepare for “several very challenging weeks” amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that “the situation remains tense,” as the country’s disease control center reported 12,834 newly confirmed cases in the past day, and 252 new COVID-related deaths.

The head of the agency, Lothar Wieler, said Germany is “at the beginning of the third wave” of infections following surges in cases last spring and in the fall.

Spahn noted there has been a drop in serious illnesses and deaths among the elderly, as most people over 80 in Germany have now received a virus vaccine.

He said Germany has managed to administer more than 200,000 first shots daily this week. As more supplies arrive, shots will be administered not just in special vaccine centers but, from mid-April, also in doctors’ practices, said Spahn.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says it’s assessing reports of rare blood coagulation problems faced by some people in the European Union who received doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19.

The U.N. health agency noted the decision of a few European Union countries to suspend use of the vaccine based on reports of the rare disorder in people who received the vaccines from a particular batch.

It noted that the European Medicines Agency has determined that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks, and said that no cases of death have been found to be caused by any COVID-19 vaccines so far.

A WHO advisory committee on vaccine safety is “carefully assessing” the reports and will communicate its findings and any changes in its recommendations to the public.

“Deaths from other causes will continue to occur, including after vaccination, but causally unrelated,” WHO said.

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BANGKOK — Thailand delayed use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday after several European countries temporarily suspended the jabs following reports of blood clots in some people.

A publicity event with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha receiving his first shot was canceled with dozens of media attending, less than an hour before the scheduled start. Instead, health officials held a news conference to explain the delay was based on the decision made by Denmark, Austria and others as a precaution. The Danish health authority said Thursday it has no evidence the vaccine was responsible for blood clots.

Other experts pointed out that of the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine shots administered elsewhere, including in Britain, there have been no reported cases of the vaccine causing blood clots or related problems.

Yong Poovorawan, an advisor to Thailand’s vaccination program, said the delay, pending an investigation into the cause of the reported side effect, will not have a big impact on the rollout.

Thailand started its vaccination drive last month with an initial 200,000 doses of China’s Sinovac and 117,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which is also being manufactured locally. The country aims to inject 10 million doses a month from June.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — A school in Slovenia cancelled classes on Friday after 26 teachers called in sick due to vaccine side effects.

Slovenian media say the staff at the school in the northwestern town of Velenje received AstraZeneca jabs on Wednesday and later reported side effects to the jabs including strong headaches, dizziness, high fever and nausea.

The head of Slovenia’s National Public Health Institute Milan Krek told public broadcaster RTV Slovenia reactions such as increased body temperature and fever are among the listed side effects for the vaccine. The reactions are being registered and will be reviewed before further decisions are made, said Krek.

The school has informed the parents that they do not have the capacity to hold classes and that the school will shut down on Friday except for day care for smaller children.

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NEW DELHI — India has registered its worst single-day jump in coronavirus cases since late December with 23,285.

The sharp spike is being attributed to the western state of Maharashtra.

India has so far reported more than 11.3 million cases, the world’s second-highest after the United States. Infections have been falling steadily since a peak in late September, but experts say increased public gatherings and laxity is leading to the latest surge.

The increase is being reported in six states, including Maharashtra where authorities have announced a weeklong lockdown in the densely populated Nagpur city next week. The vaccinations there will continue.

India is in its second phase of the COVID-19 inoculation campaign and plans to vaccine 300 million people by August. The vaccination drive that began in January is still running way below capacity.

More than 26 million people have gotten a shot, though only 4.72 million are fully vaccinated with both doses.

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