The Latest: European Medicines Agency deciding on third dose
AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency says it is deciding whether a third dose of coronavirus vaccines will be needed, in light of U.S. regulators considering booster shots.
The EU drug regulator says it’s “engaging with vaccine developers” to coordinate submission of the necessary data and says it is aware numerous European countries are considering giving booster shots to their already immunized populations.
“At this stage, EMA has not yet determined if and when a booster dose for COVID-19 vaccines will be needed,” the agency said in an email. “Further data from companies marketing the vaccines are expected in the coming weeks and EMA will be reviewing the product information on that basis.”
The regulator says it was already working with other European health officials, including national immunization groups “in case booster doses may become necessary.” It said it was waiting to assess real-world effectiveness data from Europe and other regions. Countries, including Israel and France, have recently begun giving third doses to some people whose immunity may have faded.
The World Health Organization has urged rich countries to hold off administering third doses so unvaccinated populations can get immunized.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Sources: U.S. to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters at 8 months
— New Zealand to enter lockdown after single virus case found
— Among France’s poorest, once-lagging vaccine rates jump
— Mask disputes, outbreaks make for rocky start of U.S. school year
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has officially expanded and extended the nation’s coronavirus state of emergency as government advisers recommend legal changes that would allow penalties for violations.
The measures, approved by a government task force, add seven prefectures to the six areas already under a state of emergency and extend it to Sept. 12.
Ten other prefectures were put under a “quasi-emergency,” bringing about two-thirds of the nation under some form of emergency. Hospitals have been stretched thin and some seriously sick people have been turned away. The government has taken pride in avoiding compulsory measures or a lockdown, but some experts and critics are wondering if voluntary measures are enough.
The emergency measures center around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and not serve alcohol. Under the latest measures, department stores and shopping malls will be asked to restrict the number of customers to reduce crowding.
Requests remain in place for people to work from home, but some bosses require staff to work in the office. Commuter trains and Tokyo streets remain crowded, although most people wears masks.
Tokyo has been the worst hit, with 4,377 new cases recorded on Tuesday.
PRAGUE — The schools in the Czech Republic will open the school year with a series of testing for the coronavirus.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the schoolchildren will undergo three tests on Sept. 1, which starts the school year, and again on Sept. 6 and Sept. 9.
Those who refuse testing will be required to wear face coverings in classes.
In one of the hardest-hit European countries, the Czech schools were closed most of the last school year. They fully reopened on May 24, just week before the summer break began on July 1.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot.
The goal is to ensure protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country. That’s according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
An announcement was expected as soon as this week, with doses beginning to be administered widely once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves the vaccines. That action is expected for the Pfizer shot in the coming weeks.
Among the first to receive them could be health care workers, nursing home residents and other older Americans, who were some of the first Americans to be vaccinated last December.
Global health officials, including the World Health Organization, have called on wealthier and more-vaccinated countries to hold off on booster shots to ensure the supply of first doses for people in the developing world.
— By Zeke Miller
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has detected its first community transmission of the coronavirus in months, triggering urgent meetings among top lawmakers.
Health officials say the positive case was found in Auckland on Tuesday afternoon and has no known link to outside the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised a tough approach, including possible lockdowns, for any outbreaks of the delta variant as New Zealand continues to pursue a zero-tolerance approach toward the virus.
The last community outbreak was in February and New Zealand has reported just 26 virus deaths since the start of the pandemic.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong will tighten entry restrictions for travelers arriving from the United States and 14 other countries beginning Friday, increasing the quarantine period to 21 days.
Previously, the 15 countries, which also includes Malaysia, Thailand, France and the Netherlands, were classified as medium risk, and travelers served only seven days of quarantine if they were fully vaccinated.
A resurgence of coronavirus cases in these countries due to the delta variant has led to Hong Kong’s about-face. The change comes after a domestic worker who returned to Hong Kong from the U.S. this month tested positive for the coronavirus despite receiving two shots of vaccine.
SYDNEY — Australia’s most populous state has reported its third-highest daily count of coronavirus infections in the pandemic, and the government leader says the spread of the delta variant in Sydney has not yet peaked.
There were 452 new infections reported in New South Wales on Tuesday, down from 475 on Monday and 466 on Saturday.
An unvaccinated woman in her 70s had died in a Sydney hospital Monday, bringing the death from the outbreak discovered in mid-June to 53.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she expects daily infections counts to remain high. She adds “our challenge is to make sure that we keep vaccination rates up.”
About half New South Wales’s population has had at least one injection of the two-shot Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine. The government wants 80% of the population fully vaccinated before it eases Sydney’s lockdown, which began on June 26.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama’s intensive care units are near capacity amid the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases.
The head of the Alabama Hospital Association says the state has 1,562 intensive care unit beds and 1,560 patients needing intensive care Monday. Dr. Don Williamson says that “this is the greatest demand on the ICU system we’ve ever had.”
Alabama has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus and the state’s low vaccination rate. Infections and hospitalization numbers are quickly approaching what they were at the winter peak of the pandemic.
Williamson says COVID-19 patients accounted for 48% of Alabama’s ICU patients Monday. He says the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another local government in South Carolina is joining the state capital in requiring masks in schools despite a state budget proviso that bans districts from doing so without risking funding.
The Richland County Council voted Monday evening to mandate masks for students and for educators who work with children ages 2 through 14 in public and private schools and at day care centers. The ordinance says schools aren’t required to use public funds to provide face coverings.
Columbia’s city government already made masks mandatory for schoolchildren too young to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Columbia’s mayor has said the measure relies on local funds, not state appropriations.
Education groups are pushing for state lawmakers to repeal the state budget provision that went into effect July 1 and prohibits South Carolina educational institutions from using appropriated funds to mandate masks.
ATLANTA — At least 10 Georgia school districts or charter schools have sent all students home because of exposure to the coronavirus, including Screven County.
Those districts have more than 26,000 students combined, about 1.5% of the statewide public school enrollment.
Some other districts have sent students home from individual schools, and thousands of students and teachers have been quarantined after two weeks of school for many Georgia districts.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming’s governor says the state will not return to a statewide mask order or mandate vaccination against the coronavirus despite a resurgence of the virus.
Gov. Mark Gordon imposed a statewide mask mandate in December and lifted it in March. He says mandates can cause some people to resist wearing masks.
Gordon also says he doesn’t expect any shutdowns like the public health orders that forced many Wyoming businesses and public places to close or limit occupancy through much of 2020 and into 2021.
Coronavirus infections are back up to levels not seen in Wyoming since January. Becker’s Hospital Review says Wyoming has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates of about 37%.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas health officials say they asked for five mortuary trailers from the federal government as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 reach the highest levels since January.
But the Texas Department of State Health Services also says no local officials so far have reached out with needs for extra mortuary space.
Texas reported more than 11,700 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, a 17% increase from a week ago. The seven-day daily average of COVID-19 deaths is also back above 50 for the first time since spring.
There have been 52,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths in Texas.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina health officials say medically vulnerable residents with certain health conditions can get an additional dose of coronavirus vaccine, though some have already had a third shot after the FDA approved that last week.
The FDA signed off on the additional dose after emerging data suggested people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems do not necessarily build the same level of immunity as others.
Data from the state Department of Health and Human Services shows that coronavirus infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at their worst levels in more than six months.
HONOLULU — Some private schools in Hawaii are mandating coronavirus vaccination for students, faculty and staff.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser says Parker School in Waimea on the Big Island will require all employees and eligible students to be vaccinated by Oct. 1. The coeducational day school will test all students and employees for the virus before the school year. It plans to provide weekly testing while infection rates remain high on the Big Island.
In Honolulu, the ’Iolani School is requiring all eligible students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated or seek a health or religious exemption. A spokeswoman says the school’s faculty and staff already have a 99% vaccination rate, while eligible students in grades 7 to 12 are at 95%. Younger students aren’t eligible for the shots.
JERUSALEM — Israel says more than 1 million people over age 50 have received a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Israel began offering the boosters to its older population two weeks ago, becoming the first country in the world using a Western vaccine to do so.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday that more than half of the target population has now received a booster shot.
Israel was one of the world’s leaders in vaccinating its population early this year, using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. But it has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks spread largely by the delta variant of the coronavirus.
Tthe World Health Organization has said it would be better to provide vaccines to poorer countries that have not yet inoculated their people.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia will start administering a third, or booster, dose of vaccines this week to people who previously were vaccinated at least 6 months ago, after cases of infections have surged in recent days.
Authorities on Monday said that citizens will receive text messages with invitations for booster shots. Initially, heath authorities will contact people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, medical workers and those whose jobs require frequent travel.
Serbia, a Balkan nation of around 7 million people, has vaccinated over 50% of its population.
The country loosened anti-virus rules during the summer which has led to a rise in confirmed new cases and hospitalizations mostly from the highly contagious delta variant.
DALLAS — Some Texas counties and school districts remained defiant Monday and kept in place mandates requiring students and others to wear facial coverings despite rulings a day earlier by the Texas Supreme Court halting mask mandates in two of the largest counties in the nation.
However, other school districts and communities rescinded their mask mandates following Sunday’s court ruling, creating confusion for Texas students returning to in person classes this week.
The order by the state’s highest court halts mask requirements that county leaders in Dallas and San Antonio put in place as new infections soar and students begin returning to school.