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Wednesday June 23rd, 2021 5:53PM

The Latest: US will send Pfizer vaccines to Canada next week

By The Associated Press
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TORONTO — Canada will get Pfizer vaccines doses from the United States starting next week.

A Pfizer spokesperson says Canada will begin to receive doses from its closest ally. Canada had been getting from Pfizer’s vaccines from its Belgium site.

Although Canada’s economy is tightly interconnected with the U.S., Washington didn’t allow hundreds of millions of vaccine doses made in America to be exported until now. As a result, Canada turned to Europe and Asia.

Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada in recent months. Every adult in Quebec will be eligible to make a vaccine appointment on May 14. In Ontario, Canada’s largest province, every adult can book an appointment starting May 24.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— India sets another global record with more than 386,000 daily cases

— Pfizer-BioNTech seeks vaccine approval for children ages 12-15

— Brazil backs away from the virus brink, but remains at risk

— As virus engulfs India, diaspora watches with despair

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Disneyland has reopened after a 13-month closure because of the coronavirus.

The iconic theme park in Southern California was closed under the state’s strict virus rules. It opened its gates Friday and some visitors came in cheering and screaming with happiness.

Capacity is limited and only in-state visitors are allowed. Hugs and handshakes with Mickey are also out. Industry experts say the reopening could encourage more Californians to travel during a downturn in virus cases.

California has the country’s lowest rate of coronavirus cases, and more than half of eligible residents have received a vaccine dose. It’s a dramatic turnaround from December, when hospitals across the state were running out of ICU beds and treating patients at overflow locations.

Now, children are returning to school and shops and restaurants are expanding business. Gov. Gavin Newsom set June 15 as a target date to further reopen the economy, with some health-related restrictions.

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ROME — Italy’s Health Ministry Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri says he hopes tourism by visitors from the United States will be allowed sometime in June.

Tourism is one of Italy’s major industries, and U.S. tourists are a significant segment, especially for high end hotels and restaurants, including in cities like Venice, Florence and Rome.

Sileri, who is a medical doctor, was asked about a start date for tourism by Americans who have been vaccinated. He says it all depends on coronavirus transmission rates and the overall pandemic situation.

But he expressed optimism they might come soon and without need for quarantine.

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium will close by the end of May.

Winding down operations at the stadium marks the transition of the city’s vaccination efforts to appointment-free options as well as putting more doses into walk-up centers and mobile clinics, the mayor said in a statement.

The Dodger Stadium site became one of the nation’s most prominent sites for coronavirus response, first for testing and then delivery of vaccine doses to people waiting in long lines of cars.

More than 1 million people were tested at the stadium and the number of vaccine doses administered there has topped 420,000, according to the city.

Cases and deaths have plunged in Los Angeles County, and the numbers remain low and stable. The county Department of Public Health said Thursday the daily test positivity rate was just 0.8%.

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WASHINGTON — About 8% of Americans who have received one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have not returned for their second shot.

That’s according to Dr. Antony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. He says it is important for those getting one of the two-dose vaccines to complete their course to gain maximum protection against the virus.

Speaking during a White House briefing, he pointed to several scientific studies showing significant benefits of the second shot, including reducing the risk of infection and strengthening the response of the immune system to the virus.

Says Fauci: “Get vaccinated, and if you’re getting a two-dose regimen, make sure you get that second dose.”

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish authorities have granted Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine approval for its emergency use in Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced Friday.

Koca said on Twitter the Turkish Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency approved the vaccine’s emergency use following its “examinations and evaluations,” paving the way for use alongside Sinovac and the Pfizer vaccines.

It was not known when the country will begin administering the vaccine. Koca said this week Turkey would receive 50 million doses of the Sputnik V shots within the next six months.

Russian Direct Investment Fund recently signed an agreement with Turkish biopharmaceutical company Viscoran Ilac to begin producing its Sputnik V vaccine in Turkey. Viscoran aims to start production in the coming months in several facilities, the company said.

Turkey, a nation of 84 million, says it has administered some 22.8 million doses since it rolled out its vaccination program in mid-January. About 9 million people have been fully vaccinated.

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SINGAPORE — Singapore says it will tighten its borders by banning visitors from four more South Asian nations and bolster social distancing measures to contain an uptick in coronavirus cases.

The health ministry says foreigners with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka cannot enter or transit through Singapore starting Sunday. This month, it also banned travelers from India.

Starting Saturday, the number of visitors to malls and public attractions will be further reduced for two weeks. People are urged to limit their social interactions to two a day.

Singapore controlled the pandemic after an outbreak last year among foreign workers living in cramped dormitories. But new infections have been creeping up, stemming from a foreign worker dormitory and its first hospital cluster. The health ministry Friday reported 24 new cases, taking the country’s confirmed total to 61,145.

The rise in infection comes as Singapore prepares for air travel with Hong Kong in late May.

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MADRID — Spain is extending the gap between two coronavirus vaccine doses from 12 to 16 weeks for the nearly 2 million people under 60 who have already received a first shot of AstraZeneca.

The delay will give researchers in Spain’s Carlos III Health Institute time to study the effects of mixing vaccines from different manufacturers as they look for an alternative dose following very rare instances of brain blood clots linked to the shot.

Spain had started administering the AstraZeneca vaccine developed by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant to essential workers before restricting its use to those over 60 because of the clots. Health experts say the risk with the vaccine is less than the clot risk healthy women face while on birth control.

A total of 400 people who received one AstraZeneca shot were given a second dose of the Pfizer shot until Thursday. Some 200 more people involved in the study for an alternative have been recruited for the trial’s control group, health authorities said Friday.

Authorities reminded the public that one sole dose of the AstraZeneca jab provides an 80% level of protection. The ministry also says health experts are paying attention to the studies and experience of other countries in a similar situation.

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NEW DELHI — India has set another global record with 386,452 daily coronavirus cases.

The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.

India’s pandemic response has been marred by insufficient data. An online appeal — signed by over 350 scientists Friday afternoon — asks the government to release data about the sequencing of virus variants, testing, recovered patients and how people were responding to vaccines.

The appeal says the “granular” data on testing was inaccessible to non-government experts and some government experts too.

India has set a daily global record for more than a week with an average of nearly 350,000 infections. Daily deaths have nearly tripled in the past three weeks, reflecting the intensity of the latest surge.

India has reported more than 18.7 million cases since the start of the pandemic, second only to the United States. Globally, total deaths rank fourth.

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TOKYO — A Japanese cruise ship operator says a passenger on its “Asuka II” ship has tested positive for the coronavirus, causing it to return to its home port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The infected passenger is in stable condition and resting in a cabin that’s been isolated, the operator, Nippon Yusen, said in a statement. The infected passenger was traveling with just one companion and other passengers didn’t have close contact, according to Yokohama City officials.

All the passengers had tested negative before the trip. But results of tests conducted at Thursday’s boarding were available the next day, when the tour already has begun, Nippon Yusen said. The ship on a domestic tour departed Yokohama on Thursday and was headed to Aomori and Hokkaido in northern Japan.

All facilities on the ship have been closed and all passengers are asked to stay in their cabins, the operator said.

The case is a reminder of an outbreak on a luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess, where more than 700 of its 3,700 passengers got infected during a two-week quarantine on board at the Yokohama port. Thirteen people died.

Overall, Japan has totaled more than 580,000 confirmed cases and 10,200 confirmed deaths. Tokyo and three other metropolitan areas are currently under a state of emergency because of a surge of infections.

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Pfizer and BioNTech have submitted a request for European Union drug regulators to extend the approval of the companies’ coronavirus vaccine to include children ages 12 to 15, a move that could offer younger and less at-risk populations in Europe access to the shots for the first time.

In a statement on Friday, the two companies said their submission to the European Medicines Agency was based on an advanced study in more than 2,000 adolescents that showed the vaccine to be safe and effective. The children will continue to be monitored for longer-term protection and safety for another two years.

BioNTech and Pfizer previously had requested their emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also be extended to children 12-15.

The COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech was the first one to be granted a greenlight by the EMA in December, when it was licensed for anyone age 16 and over across the 27-nation EU.

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MADRID — Spanish health authorities say they have started giving Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to participants in a government-led study involving young people who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Researchers from Spain’s Carlos III Institute want to study the effects of mixing vaccines from different manufacturers as they look for a second dose alternative following very rare brain blood clots linked to the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca.

Experts say the risks of the British=Swedish pharmaceutical company’s vaccine are less than the clot risk healthy women face while on birth control.

A total of 400 people were given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for their second dose until Thursday, Spain’s Health Ministry said Friday, while 200 other people have been recruited as part of the study’s control group.

Five major hospitals across Spain are involved, and results are expected in mid-May.

There are about 2 million people under age 60 who received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine before Spanish authorities halted its use in that age group.

Individuals who received their first dose on Feb. 8 should receive a second dose by May 8, according to the vaccine manufacturer’s recommendation. Authorities say that delaying the second shot is safe.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s minister for planning and development warned his countrymen Friday that the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients is rapidly increasing and the next few weeks will be critical for the impoverished Islamic nation.

Asad Umar, who oversees Pakistan’s response to the coronavirus, said as many as 5,360 patients with COVID-19 were on oxygen support at hospitals. That is 57% more than the number of COVID-19 patients who were critically ill during Pakistan's previous outbreak peak in June, he said.

Umar tweeted that Pakistan has managed the situation but “no system can cope if we allow the disease to spread rapidly”.

Pakistan on Friday reported more than 5,000 new confirmed cases and 131 virus-related deaths in 24 hours. Since last year, Pakistan has reported 17,680 deaths among 815,711 confirmed cases

The government earlier this week deployed troops in high-risk cities to stop people from violating social distancing rules.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he will be forced to impose a lockdown if the positivity rate does not decrease.

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LISBON, Portugal — Residents of Portugal will be able to go to cinemas, stores and restaurants on Saturday night as the country continues its gradual easing of a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown.

The land border with neighboring Spain will also reopen from Saturday after closing to non-essential travel in January, when Portugal was the country hit worst by the pandemic in the world by size of population.

Limits on indoor seating capacity at restaurants and cafes will remain from Saturday onward, however. The wearing of face masks is also mandatory, if social distancing is not possible, as is working from home.

Portugal’s virus incidence rate per 100,000 population over 14 days — a key pandemic measure — has fallen to 67 from 1,628 at the end of January.

Intensive care units in the country of 10.3 million people were treating more than 900 patients in early February, but now are looking after 88.

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BUDAPEST — Hungary will loosen several COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for holders of a government-issued immunity card in the latest round of reopenings that the government has tied to the number of administered vaccines.

Beginning Saturday morning, card holders may access indoor dining rooms, hotels, theaters, cinemas, spas, gyms, libraries, museums and other recreational venues. Opening hours for businesses will also be extended to 11 p.m., and the start of an overnight curfew in place since November will be extended until midnight.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the reopening comes as Hungary reaches 4 million first-dose vaccinations, representing about 40% of the population.

“In the past, we defended ourselves by closing, thereby slowing the spread of the virus. But now we are on the attack,” he said. “The vaccine is like a bulletproof vest, the virus bounces off of it.”

Hungary is the only country in the European Union to use vaccines from China and Russia in addition to Western jabs. It has the second highest vaccination rate in the EU, but a devastating pandemic surge in the spring has given it the highest total death rate per 1 million inhabitants in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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