The Latest: France also suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said that France is suspending the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine use out of precaution.

Macron told a news conference Monday that French authorities have decided to suspend shots at least until Tuesday afternoon, when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will issue its recommendation over the vaccine. He didn’t elaborate on the reasons for the decision.

He said France hopes to be able to vaccine again with AstraZeneca shots “soon,” depending on the EMA’s assessment.

Other countries, including Germany on Monday, said it would temporarily halt the use of the vaccine as a precaution amid reports that some people developed blood clots after receiving the shot.

AstraZeneca and global health authorities insist the shot is safe.

___

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— President Joe Biden, VP Harris traveling this week to highlight the benefits of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan

— Cruise ship passengers recall deaths, frustration and quarantine last year

— Why countries are halting the AstraZeneca vaccine, though there is no evidence the shot is responsible for reported blood clots

— They’ve reached the March Madness bracket, now college basketball teams face nerve-wracking sequence of virus tests

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says health experts in the country are sure the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and says the doses Canada receive are not from the same batch that are causing concerns in Europe.

Canada’s health regulator approved AstraZeneca last month and the government recently received 500,000 doses from the Serum Institute of India.

Trudeau says Health Canada ensures the vaccines are safe before they enter the country. He says the best vaccine is the first one you can get.

People between 60 and 64 in Ontario and elsewhere have started to receive AstraZeneca doses.

Germany and France have joined some other European countries in suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine use out of precaution after reports of blood clots in some recipients.

___

BERLIN — Germany on Monday became the biggest country in Europe to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and European regulators said there is no evidence the shot is to blame.

The country’s health minister said the decision was taken on the advice of Germany’s national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation into seven reported cases of clots in the brains of people who had been vaccinated.

“Today’s decision is a purely precautionary measure,” Jens Spahn said.

Several countries, starting with Denmark last week, have temporarily halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days to investigate cases of blood clots that occurred after vaccination. They include Ireland, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Congo and Bulgaria.

AstraZeneca has said that there is no cause for concern with its vaccine and that there were fewer reported thrombosis cases in those who received the shot than in the general population.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have also said that the data does not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and that people should continue to be immunized.

___

THE NUMBERS:

VACCINES: More than 69.7 million people, or 21.0% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 37.4 million people, or 11.3% of the population, have completed their vaccination.

CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 67,186 on Feb. 28 to 53,670.4 on March 14, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 1,946.4 on February 28 to 1,354.3 on March 14, according to Johns Hopkins University.

STATE VACCINATION RATES: The percentage of population that received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the CDC: New Mexico (29%); Alaska (27.7%); South Dakota (27.4%). States with the lowest rates: Alabama (17.3%); District of Columbia (17.1%); Georgia (15.7%).

___

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is pleading with Americans to follow public health guidance on mask-wearing and refraining from nonessential travel as the coronavirus continues to infect more than 50,000 Americans each day.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rachelle Walensky says she is alarmed by escalating rates of travel, including around college spring break. Walensky pointed to the Transportation Security Administration reporting the heaviest travel date on Friday since the pandemic began, as well as images of maskless partygoers in beach towns as risks for another spike in virus cases.

Walensky notes cases of the virus have been on a slight decline over the last several weeks, but remain at elevated levels.

___

NEW YORK — About nine out of 10 people who got a first shot of a coronavirus vaccine got the second in the two-dose series, according to the first federal study to look at how many are people are completing the series.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday released results of a study of 12.5 million people who received the first vaccine dose and for whom sufficient time elapsed to get the second. The study focused on the period from December 14 to February 14.

The researchers found 88% completed the series, and another 9% did not but still had time to complete the series within the six weeks that CDC officials recommend as the maximum span between doses. About 3% did not complete the series within six weeks, the study found.

“This is good news. We think these findings are really encouraging. The fact that most people are completing the two-dose series to be fully vaccinated shows the system’s working,” said Robin Toblin of the CDC, one of the study’s authors.

The study did not explore why some people did not complete the series.

Researchers found completion rates varied from state to state. It was as low as 75% in Utah and as high as 96% in West Virginia.

There may be different reasons for state differences, including winter weather that could have delayed vaccine deliveries and caused the cancellation of vaccination clinics, Toblin said.

___

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas’ top public health administrator told legislators Monday that the state could distribute five times as many COVID-19 vaccine doses as it is receiving now from the federal government.

Dr. Lee Norman, head of the state health department, said the biggest issue facing Kansas in getting people inoculated is the vaccine supply. His comments came four days after President Joe Biden vowed to make all adult Americans eligible for vaccinations by May 1.

The GOP-controlled Legislature has criticized what it sees as a slow distribution of vaccines by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration.

The health department’s timetable anticipates that vaccinations won’t be available for all Kansas residents 16 and older until June. Norman said the state is receiving between 140,000 and 150,000 vaccine doses a week.

“The federal supply continues to be the largest barrier,” Norman told the Senate health committee during a briefing. “Probably, without even working overly hard at it — five times the amount, if it would come to us, we would be able to push it out.”

___

BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister welcomed a deal Monday that will see IDT Biologika temporarily fill and package the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine at a plant in the eastern town of Dessau.

Peter Altmaier said vaccine production in Germany would “increase the supply security and is a very important signal in the current phase of the pandemic.”

Germany’s vaccine campaign has lagged behind other countries, with about 6.5 million people having received a first dose compared with more than 24 million in Britain and almost 70 million in the United States.

The agreement between IDT and Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine was authorized for use in the EU last week, will use facilities previously reserved for a shot against dengue being developed by Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.

IDT said the coronavirus vaccine manufactured in Dessau will be used for worldwide distribution.

___

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Around 1,000 demonstrators have broken a ban on public gatherings in Hungary’s capital to demand an end to the country’s lockdown restrictions.

The demonstration was organized by a far-right party called Our Homeland Movement. The party’s leaders argued that lockdown measures are leading to the destruction of Hungary’s economy as they demanded an end to the restrictions.

The illegal demonstration came as a powerful surge of the coronavirus pandemic sweeps Hungary.

Last week, the average number of new cases and those being treated in hospitals shattered previous records set in December. Hungary now has the seventh worst death rate per 1 million inhabitants in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

___

BOSTON — Massachusetts has released 21 convicted first-degree murderers under the state’s three-year-old medical parole law, most of them in the past year during the coronavirus pandemic, angering prosecutors and the families of their victims.

Under state law, people convicted of first-degree murder receive mandatory sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey is questioning the move, telling The Boston Globe that a first-degree murderer is not eligible for parole, “yet we’re allowing them to be released.”

The law allows inmates, regardless of their crime, to petition the state Department of Correction for release if diagnosed by a physician as terminally ill, with a life expectancy of fewer than 18 months, or permanently incapacitated so they do not pose a risk to society.

___

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Exactly one year after Alaska announced its first case of the coronavirus, the state has reported that over one-third of its residents over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The figures reported last Friday occurred days after the state dropped restrictions on who could get coronavirus vaccinations. Eligibility was opened to anyone 16 or older living or working in the state.

Alaska was the first U.S. state to remove vaccine eligibility requirements. About 187,000 people, or 33.1% of all residents over 16, had had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Friday.

___

BERLIN — Germany’s association of intensive care doctors is calling for a return to stricter lockdown measures as coronavirus cases in the country continue to rise.

Christian Karagiannidis, of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, or DIVI, told public broadcaster rbb on Monday that in light of the current infection figures and the spread of a more contagious variant first detected in Britain “we would … argue very strongly for an immediate return to a lockdown to prevent a strong third wave” of cases.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Germany has risen over the past two weeks from 9.51 per 100,000 people on Feb. 28 to almost 12 per 100,000 people on March 14.

Germany’s federal and state governments agreed two weeks ago to loosen restrictions, but said an ‘emergency brake’ would be pulled in regions that pass a weekly threshold of 100 newly confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

___

Categories: National & International News