The Latest: Some Britons receive 2nd shot of virus vaccine

LONDON — Some people in Britain have received their second and final dose of coronavirus vaccine as the country’s immunization program rolls on.

Margaret Keenan, 91, who became the first person in the U.K. to get a vaccine on Dec. 8, had the follow-up injection Tuesday at a hospital in the central England city of Coventry.

Hospital chief executive Andy Hardy says: “We were delighted to welcome Margaret Keenan back to Coventry’s University Hospital today to safely receive the second dose of the vaccination after she became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 (vaccine) following its clinical approval.”

The vaccine developed by Pfizer and German firm BioNTech is given in two doses three weeks apart. Its developers say it conferred 95% immunity in clinical trials.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Belarus, Argentina start vaccinations with Russian shots

— Hospitalizations in England exceed peak in spring

— Russia’s updated stats indicate more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths

— Iran begins 1st human trial of locally made virus vaccine

— Follow AP’s 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:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama, long one of the unhealthiest and most impoverished states in America, has emerged as an alarming coronavirus hot spots.

Its hospitals are in crisis in a region with high rates of obesity, high blood pressure and other conditions that can make COVID-19 even more dangerous. Access to health care was limited even before the outbreak. And public resistance to masks and other precautions is stubborn.

While ICUs nationwide were at 78% capacity during the week of Dec. 18-24, Alabama’s were 91% full, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. On Monday, there were 2,800 people in Alabama hospitals with COVID-19, the highest total since the start of the pandemic.

The virus has killed more than 4,700 people in Alabama. Tennessee and California have been hit especially hard in recent weeks. The U.S. leads the world with more than 335,000 confirmed deaths.

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ROME — Italy added 659 deaths to its official coronavirus toll ahead of another few days of full lockdown for the New Year’s holiday.

Another 11,212 people tested positive, according to health ministry data released Tuesday.

Italy has been under a modified nationwide lockdown since before Christmas in a bid to stave off a new surge in infections as a result of holiday gatherings. Shops are having a few days of reprieve to reopen for business but will close again by the end of the week.

Amid the closures, Italy is proceeding with its vaccination effort. On Tuesday, officials sent messages of solidarity to the first Italian to get the vaccine, a Rome nurse at the capital’s main infectious disease hospital, after her social media accounts were inundated with insults from vaccine skeptics.

Italy has Europe’s highest official death toll at 73,029 and more than 2 million confirmed infections.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Dr. Ashish Jha, an expert on the coronavirus pandemic, says he’s frustrated by the slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, in a series of Twitter posts on Monday blamed the federal government for neglecting to work with states on the final steps of getting vaccines to citizens.

“Did we not know that vaccines were coming? Is vaccine administration a surprise?” he wrote.

The amount of vaccine doses shipped to states has been lower than initially expected.

He adds there “appears to be no investment or plan in the last mile. No effort from Feds to help states launch a real vaccination infrastructure.”

Jha says the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress and signed into law Sunday by President Donald Trump, which includes $69 billion for vaccine distribution, gives him hope.

He tweeted: “After a slow ramp up, it’ll get better.”

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LONDON — Ireland has administered its first doses of coronavirus vaccine.

National broadcaster RTE says 79-year-old Annie Lynch was the first person to be vaccinated, getting a jab at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin.

Lynch says. “like everyone else, I have been waiting for the vaccine and I really feel like there is a bit of hope there now.”

Ireland received a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the weekend as part of its rollout to the 27 nations of the European Union.

Irish authorities plan to vaccinate 40,000 people a week beginning in January, starting with elderly people in nursing homes and frontline health care workers.

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MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore says she has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in isolation.

The 69-year-old Milwaukee Democrat says in a statement she is “following guidance from my doctor” and is “thankful to be feeling well.”

Moore says she didn’t expect the virus to affect her work and encouraged the continued wearing of masks, washing of hands and practicing of social distancing.

The statement didn’t say when she learned she had contracted the virus or where she might have gotten it.

The Journal Sentinel reports Moore announced nearly two years ago she had been diagnosed with small-cell lymphocytic lymphoma. Moore has been in Congress since 2005.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has detected the country’s first known cases of the new fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.

The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority reported Tuesday it found “a limited number of cases received from abroad,” without specifying how many or where the travelers had been.

Neighboring Gulf countries halted international commercial flights because of concerns about the virus strain found in the United Kingdom. The UAE, with its large population of British expats, has remained open to tourists. Those arriving from the U.K. are required to get tested for the virus upon arrival in Dubai.

On Tuesday, the health ministry recorded more than 1,500 infections, the highest single-day total in months.

The federation of seven sheikhdoms has an economy that draws heavily on tourism, aviation and hospitality industries. The health ministry has reported more than 204,300 confirmed cases and 662 confirmed deaths amid an aggressive testing campaign.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s updated statistics on coronavirus-linked deaths show more than 100,000 people had died by December, a number much higher than previously reported by government officials.

A total of 116,030 people with the coronavirus died in Russia between April and November, according to data released Monday by Russia’s state statistics agency Rosstat. The count included cases where the virus was not the main cause of death and where the virus was suspected but not confirmed.

Also, Belarus and Argentina announced the start of mass coronavirus vaccinations with the Russian-developed Sputnik V shot. They are the first countries outside of Russia to roll out the vaccine that is still undergoing late-stage studies to ensure its safety and effectiveness. The first batch of Sputnik V arrived in Belarus. Argentina plans to start using the Russian vaccine on Tuesday.

Russia has been widely criticized for giving Sputnik V regulatory approval in August after the vaccine only had been tested on a few dozen people. This month, Russian authorities started mass vaccinations with Sputnik V, even though it is still undergoing late-stage trials.

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s state TV says the first study has begun on the safety and effectiveness of a locally developed coronavirus vaccine in Iran.

Details about the vaccine’s production remained slim. Dozens are due to receive the shot in the hardest-hit country in the Middle East. The vaccine is produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of a state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate. It’s the first in the country to reach human trials.

The study, a Phase 1 clinical trial, will enroll a total of 56 volunteers to receive two shots of Iran’s vaccine within two weeks. Iran has struggled to stem the worst virus outbreak in the region, which has more than 1.2 million confirmed infections and nearly 55,000 confirmed deaths.

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MILWAUKEE — Clinicians had to discard about 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine after vials were kept unrefrigerated for too long at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton.

Advocate Aurora Health officials say someone removed 50 vials from a refrigerator to access other items and failed to put them back overnight Friday. Each vial contained 10 doses of vaccine.

The Journal Sentinel reports an internal investigation found the failure was an “unintended human error.”

Clinicians were still able to administer some of the vaccine from the vials within the allowable 12-hour, post-refrigeration window but had to discard most of it. Once the vaccine is thawed, it cannot be refrozen.

Advocate Aurora Health says it has vaccinated about 17,000 of its employees in the last 12 days.

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KARACHI, Pakistan — Health officials in southern Pakistan say they have detected the country’s first three cases of the virus variant that prompted strict new lockdown measures in Britain and global travel restrictions.

Health and population Welfare department in the Sindh province says it took samples of 12 people upon their return from Britain and three of them showed a 95% match to the coronavirus variant from U.K.

It says efforts were under way to trace people in contact with the infected persons, who were kept in isolation and will undergo more thorough tests.

The announcement comes a day after Pakistan extended its ban on passenger flights from the U.K for a week to avoid the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus.

It is the first time that such infections have been found in Pakistan, which Tuesday reported 1,776 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 63 deaths in the past 24 hours. There have been 9,992 confirmed deaths and 475,085 cases since February.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Celebrations in Cyprus will be a tight family affair after authorities imposed a limit on all New Year’s Eve gatherings of no more than 10 people from two families.

But until Jan. 10, all other get-togethers at home are restricted to only those who reside there. All public gatherings outdoors are limited to two people.

Only essential staff will be permitted into government offices, while all others will have to work from home. A 9 p.m. – 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect, except for New Year’s Eve when that’s extended to 1 am.

The measures were announced after Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou warned that intensive care units treating COVID-19 patients are on the verge of exceeding their capacity because a rising number of infections. On Monday, authorities reported 751 new coronavirus infections from nearly 13,500 tests — a large number for the country of around 900,000 people.

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LONDON — Official figures show more people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in England than at the first peak of the outbreak in the spring.

There were 20,426 patients in hospitals as of Monday morning — the most recent data — compared to the previous high of 18,974 on April 12.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of Britain’s National Health Service, says health care workers are back in “the eye of the storm” as they had been in the spring.

British authorities are blaming a new variant of the coronavirus, first identified in southeast England, for soaring infection rates. Almost half of England’s population is under tight restrictions on movement and on everyday life in an attempt to curb the spread.

Stevens says vaccines provide some hope, and estimated all vulnerable people in Britain could be inoculated against the coronavirus by late spring 2021.

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BERLIN — German authorities say the coronavirus variant found in Britain has been detected in samples from two patients who were infected in northern Germany in November.

The health ministry in Lower Saxony state said late Monday the samples were tested more thoroughly after news of the new variant emerged in Britain, regional public broadcaster NDR reported. They were taken in November from an elderly man with other medical conditions, who later died, and from his wife.

The ministry says the man’s daughter had been in England in mid-November and likely was infected there.

News this month of the variant, which scientists suspect is more infectious, triggered tighter restrictions in parts of England and new hurdles to travel.

Germany, like several other European countries, detected a case of the new variant last week, in a woman who flew in from London on Dec. 20.

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