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The Latest: UN-backed vaccine program expects supply delays

Thursday, March 25, 2021 | The Associated Press

Boxes of the Pfizer vaccine are unloaded at the Sarajevo Airport, in Bosnia, Thursday, March 25, 2021. A plane carrying 24.000 Pfizer vaccines, part of the international COVAX initiative to ensure vaccine access for low- and middle-income countries, delivered the first COVAX vaccines to Bosnia. (AP Photo/Kemal Softic)

GENEVA — The U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide has announced supply delays for up to 90 million doses from an Indian manufacturer.

It’s a major setback for the ambitious rollout aimed to help low- and middle-income countries fight the pandemic. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says the delays come as India is facing a surge of coronavirus infections that will increase domestic demands on the Serum Institute of India, a pivotal vaccine maker behind the COVAX program.

The move will affect up to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines being manufactured by the Serum Institute that were to be delivered for COVAX this month, as well as 50 million expected next month.

Gavi, which runs COVAX jointly with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, has already distributed 31 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. There’s been 28 million from the Serum Institute and another 3 million from a South Korean contractor producing the vaccine.



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LONDON — British lawmakers are voting on whether to prolong coronavirus emergency measures that have given the government unprecedented powers to restrict U.K. citizens’ everyday lives.

The government is asking Parliament to extend the powers until September and approve a road map for gradually easing lockdown over the next three months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s large majority in Parliament all but guarantees success, but Johnson faces rebellion from some of his own Conservative lawmakers. They say the economic, democratic and human costs of the restrictions outweighs the benefits.

The Coronavirus Act, passed a year ago as Britain went into lockdown, gives authorities powers to bar protests, shut businesses, restrict travel and detain people suspected of having the virus.

Britain has recorded more than 126,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. The U.K. says its vaccination program has given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than half the adult population.


NEW YORK — New York City is taking steps toward the reopening of the city’s theaters, creating vaccination and testing sites for stage workers in a bid to restore a key part of New York’s draw.

“It’s time to raise the curtain and bring Broadway back,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a virtual press conference Thursday. The mayor says the city will set up dedicated vaccination sites specifically for the theater community and the theater industry.

A statement from The Broadway League says, “vaccination and testing sites for theatre workers are a great step towards recovery.” De Blasio says the city needs state guidance on issues like whether audiences need to bring proof of vaccination.


BERLIN — Germany will require negative coronavirus test results from all travelers entering the country from abroad by plane, the health ministry announced Thursday.

Travelers will need to show the negative test result, no older than 48 hours, before boarding the airplane. If they refuse to get tested, airline carriers will no longer take the travelers to Germany. The new testing will start Sunday and last until May 12.

Only travelers arriving from regions Germany deemed as high-risk areas in the pandemic had been asked to show negative tests results. Now the test obligation expands to all plane travelers from aboard.

The blanket testing requirement doesn’t include travelers entering Germany by car or other means of transportation. There are currently different regulations depending on the infection rate of the country.


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia says it will train dogs to detect the presence of the coronavirus in humans.

Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said on his Facebook page that Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested his agency work with the Health Ministry on training the dogs. The initiative comes as Cambodia is fighting a third wave of coronavirus infections.

Heng Ratana says his agency’s trainers, with 22 years of experience handling dogs to sniff out land mines, would have no problem teaching dogs to sniff out the coronavirus.

Tests using dogs to detect the virus are reported to have a high success rate, often above 90%. Dogs have been used in pilot projects at airports in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Helsinki, Finland.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida will open eligibility requirements to anyone 18 and older on April 5, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday.

Starting Monday, the eligibility requirement for getting the vaccine will drop from 50 to 40, the governor said.

DeSantis urged people interested in getting the vaccine to pre-register online. There is also vaccine pre-registration phone number in each county for anyone who doesn’t have online access.

The vaccines are also available at most CVS, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations, along with Winn Dixie and Publix pharmacies across Florida. The vaccine is expected to be available soon at statewide Walgreens pharmacies.


BANGKOK — Thailand’s health minister announced the country’s Food and Drug Administration has approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also a deputy prime minister, announced Thursday the approval for local emergency use on his Facebook page. The emergency approval shortcuts what would otherwise be a long evaluation process.

Anutin says three vaccines have now been approved in Thailand, along with Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

“I would like to invite other vaccine makers to register their vaccines here so Thais will have more options for inoculations,” he wrote.

Anutin and the Thai government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha came under intense criticism for allegedly making late and inadequate preparations for securing supplies of COVID-19 vaccine.

Thailand started its first vaccinations at the end of February, with 200 public health officials receiving the Sinovac vaccine from China. Anutin was given the first shot.


TIRANA, Albania — Albanian officials say they’ve contracted for half a million Chinese vaccines to launch a mass coronavirus vaccination ahead of the summer.

Prime Minister Edi Rama went to Turkey to negotiate half a million Sinovac vaccines within 60 days. The first batch of 192,000 doses was expected to arrive later Thursday.

This week, Albania accepted 10,000 Sputnik V Russian vaccines donated from the United Arab Emirates. The government aims to start a mass vaccination campaign to ready the country to welcome tourists this summer.

Albania, with a population of 2.8 million, has registered more than 122,000 coronavirus cases and 2,171 confirmed deaths.


BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union’s problems with getting coronavirus vaccines have underscored the need for the bloc to redouble its vaccine production efforts.

Speaking to Parliament on Thursday ahead of an EU summit to talk about the issue, Merkel acknowledged that the vaccination rollout in Germany has not gone as quickly as hoped. Still she rejected criticism that not enough shots had been ordered, instead saying it was more about how many vaccines had been delivered.

She says: “We can see clearly that British facilities are producing for Great Britain. The United States isn’t exporting, and therefore we are dependent upon what can be produced in Europe.”

Germany has registered more than 75,000 total confirmed deaths. The country’s disease control center reported 22,657 new confirmed cases Thursday, up from 17,504 daily cases a week ago.

“We are in the third wave and again seeing exponential growth,” Merkel says.


LONDON — The European Medicines Agency said its expert safety committee is continuing to evaluate cases of people who develop blood clots after receiving at least one dose of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

The EU medicines regulator say it was convening a meeting of experts on Monday to provide additional information into their analysis, including outside experts in blood clots, virology, neurology and infectious diseases. Two members of the public will be included in the group.

The EMA says the group’s conclusions would add to the agency’s ongoing investigation, with an updated recommendation expected in early April. Last week, the EMA said the AstraZeneca vaccine was not linked to an overall increase in the risk of blood clots, but couldn’t rule out a connection to some very rare clots.

It recommended that an additional warning be added to the vaccine’s leaflet and doctors and patients take extra steps to monitor possible side effects.


REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Iceland’s government has ordered schools to be closed and public gatherings halted after the detection of six coronavirus cases believed to be the variant first detected in Britain.

“We need to hit the brake,” Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir says.

The government ordered all schools closed, as well as gyms, swimming pools, theaters, cinemas and bars. Restaurants, shops and hairdressers can remain open in a limited capacity. Gatherings of more than 10 people will be banned for three weeks.

Iceland has registered just 5,384 cases and 29 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, according to the government website. But in the past week, six people were infected with the British variant, which authorities say is more transmissible. There was no apparent link between the six people.


KYIV, Ukraine — Belarus has started mass production of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, the country’s authorities announced Thursday.

Belarus’ state pharmaceutical company, Belmedpreparaty, will be producing up to 500,000 doses of the shot a month. The company’s CEO Sergei Belyaev says the first batches will be available in late April.

Belarus was the second country after Russia to grant regulatory approval to Sputnik V.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has not imposed a lockdown or other coronavirus restrictions. He has advised citizens to avoid catching it by driving tractors in the field, drinking vodka and visiting saunas. His attitude has angered many Belarusians and added to the public dismay over his authoritarian rule.

The country of 9.5 million has recorded nearly 315,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,193 confirmed deaths.


BAGHDAD — Iraq has received the first shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines through the international COVAX program.

Iraq’s Health Ministry says 336,000 doses of the vaccines landed in Baghdad international airport, with more shipments expected to arrive over the coming weeks.

The country has been registering record numbers of daily infections, including Thursday when the Health Ministry reported 6,513 cases and 33 deaths. A total of 15,196 vaccines have been administered, according to the World Health Organization.

So far, it has received 50,000 doses as a donation from China to immunize health care workers.

Iraq, with a population of 40 million and a health system battered by decades of conflict, has registered 815,605 confirmed cases and 14,128 confirmed deaths.


MINNEAPOLIS — Health officials report dozens of fully vaccinated people have contracted the coronavirus in Minnesota.

The state has identified 89 coronavirus infections in people who have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Star Tribune.

State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann says the fraction of fully vaccinated people who still contract infections was expected. Clinical trials suggested the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% effective. Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine is about 66% effective.

Ehresmann told the Star Tribune the cases represent less than one-tenth of 1% of people who have been fully vaccinated. About 800,000 Minnesotans are fully vaccinated.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The first shipment of Pfizer vaccines has arrived in Bosnia through the international COVAX program.

A small plane carrying 23,400 doses of the vaccines on Thursday landed in Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo while an additional shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines is expected in the evening.

Bosnia so far has received Russian Sputnik V vaccines in the Serb-dominated part of the country and a donation from Serbia of 10,000 doses of AstraZeneca in the Bosniak-Croat entity.

Bosnia has had among the highest death rates in the Balkans. Struggling to contain an ongoing surge in infections, Bosnia has imposed a lockdown in most of the country.

Many Balkan countries are facing a rise in infections that is attributed largely to the British variant of the virus.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine reported a 16,669 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the highest number during the pandemic.

The Health Ministry on Thursday says 363 people died the previous day, up from the previous record of 342 the day before. Several regions and the country’s capital have introduced severe lockdown restrictions in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

The nation of 41 million people has reported nearly 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 31,000 confirmed deaths.


BRUSSELS — European Union leaders are meeting to look for ways to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations across the 27-nation region amid a shortage of doses.

There’s also been increases in cases, a feud with Britain and internal quarrels among the EU. Less than 5% of the EU’s 450 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ahead of Thursday’s summit, the bloc’s executive arm proposed strengthening export controls for coronavirus shots. The European Commission’s goal is to force vaccine manufacturers to deliver the doses agreed to in their contracts.

The commission also wants to make sure a principle of export reciprocity is enforced with countries that are producing vaccines.


GENEVA — A team of international and Chinese scientists is poised to report on its joint search for the origins of the coronavirus first detected in China.

Four theories are being considered, and one is the clear frontrunner: That the virus first emerged in humans by way of a bat and then an intermediate host.

The lengthy report is being published after months of wrangling, notably between the U.S. and Chinese governments, over how the outbreak emerged, causing politics to overshadow a scientific search.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the report will be released after its publication was delayed earlier this month. The coronavirus has killed more than 2.7 million people and stifled economies worldwide.


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Companies Mentioned in This Article

CompanyMarketRank™Current PricePrice ChangeDividend YieldP/E RatioConsensus RatingConsensus Price Target
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)2.3$170.22+0.2%2.37%26.76Buy$185.70
CVS Health (CVS)2.3$84.33+0.1%2.37%13.94Buy$92.14
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