The Latest: Turkey announces first local COVID vaccine
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has announced the country’s first local vaccine in development against COVID-19 would be called TURKOVAC.
The first dose of the vaccine’s third phase trial was administered to a male volunteer Tuesday in a videoconference by the health minister, professors and Turkey’s president. The health minister said Phase 1 and 2 trials showed the vaccine’s safety and immune response.
TURKOVAC is using an “inactivated virus” technology and was developed at Erciyes University. Other vaccine developments continue in Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it is imperative to have a local vaccine that Turkey would use in the country and export to others.
Turkey is currently using vaccines from China’s Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech. Russia’s Sputnik V will also be used. More than 43,5 doses have been administered with the age category lowered to 25 on Tuesday.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the vaccine is the “pride of the nation.”
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— US finds deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared by 32% last year
— WHO plans technology transfer hub for coronavirus vaccines in South Africa
— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PORTLAND, Maine — A program to help the U.S.’s bus companies survive the coronavirus pandemic that was championed by a Maine senator is now accepting applications.
Republic Sen. Susan Collins co-wrote the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services grant program and said this week that the program is now open. The program is slated to provide $2 billion in coronavirus relief to bus, motorcoach and other passenger vessel companies.
The pandemic has hit the nation’s approximately 3,000 private bus lines hard. Nearly all of them were shut down in the early stages of the pandemic and many have struggled to recover since.
“Bus and motorcoach companies, ferries, and tour boats sustain good-paying jobs and provide critical transportation services. The COVID-19 pandemic took an enormous toll on these businesses, many of which are small and family owned,” Collins said.
Collins co-authored the proposal with Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. The senators said that every bus and vessel company that meets eligibility criteria and submits a completed application will receive a grant.
AMSTERDAM — The European Union’s medicines regulator has approved two new manufacturing sites for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.
The move announced Tuesday by the European Medicines Agency will help increase production of the vaccine that has formed the backbone of many European nations’ vaccination programs.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control says that 242.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been distributed to European nations and nearly 223 million shots have been administered.
The EMA says its human medicines committee approved a site in Reinbek, Germany, that is operated by Allergopharma and another in the Swiss town of Stein that is operated by Novartis Pharma.
Last month, the EMA recommended expanding the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children aged 12-15.
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Michigan is fully open again. After facing 15 months of capacity restrictions and being hit by the country’s worst surge of coronavirus infections this spring, restaurants, entertainment businesses and other venues can operate at 100% occupancy starting Tuesday.
Limits on indoor gatherings like weddings and funerals are gone. So is a broad requirement that the unvaccinated be masked indoors. Michigan is among the last states to lift capacity caps, which has frustrated the business community.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and public health officials say the restrictions were needed until enough residents could be vaccinated.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination and told them to leave the country if they would not cooperate with the efforts to contain the pandemic.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric, said in televised remarks Monday night that he has become exasperated with people who refuse to get immunized then help spread the coronavirus.
“Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt,” Duterte said.
“If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,” he said, adding he would order village leaders to compile a list of defiant residents.
A human rights lawyer, Edre Olalia, raised concerns over Duterte’s threat, saying the president could not order the arrest of anybody who has not clearly committed any crime.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A coronavirus outbreak in Fiji is rapidly growing, with 180 new cases reported on Tuesday.
The current outbreak began in April and has resulted in seven deaths and numerous restrictions, although so far the island nation has resisted a nationwide lockdown.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said this week it was providing an additional 10 million New Zealand dollars ($7 million) for COVID-19 operations and food supplies in Fiji. New Zealand and Australia have also sent medical teams.
Located north of New Zealand, Fiji is home to 940,000 people. Its tourism-dependent economy had already been hard-hit by the pandemic before the latest outbreak. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fiji has reported more than 2,200 cases and nine deaths.
HAVANA — Cuba’s government announced on Monday that its three-shot Abdala vaccine has proven to be 92% effective against the coronavirus.
It provided no details of the clinical testing. The Abdala is one of the vaccines Cuba is testing. It recently said its Soberana 2 vaccine has shown a 62% efficacy. The announcement came as Cuba faces its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic with record new infections.
Dr. Francisco Durán, the island’s director of epidemiology, on Monday reported 1,561 new coronavirus cases for a total of 169,365 confirmed cases and 1,170 deaths.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has told the World Health Organization it tested more than 30,000 people for the coronavirus through June 10 but has yet to find a single infection.
The WHO said in a monitoring report Tuesday that North Korea’s testing figures included 733 people who were tested during June 4-10, of which 149 were with influenza-like illnesses or severe respiratory infections.
Experts widely doubt North Korea’s claim that it has not had a single case of the virus, given its poor health infrastructure and porous border with China, its major ally and economic lifeline.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” the North has banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade. The self-imposed lockdown has caused further strain on an economy already battered by decades of mismanagement and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over the country’s nuclear weapons program.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a political conference last week called for officials to brace for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, indicating that the country won’t open its borders anytime soon.
ROME — Mask-wearing outdoors in Italy will no longer be required in virtually all of the country starting on June 28.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza tweeted Monday night that the mask requirement for outdoors will be eliminated in those parts of Italy in designated “white zone” regions, where COVID-19 case incidence is low and ICU admissions of the illness are below thresholds considered at risk for overwhelming hospitals.
Currently all but one small region, in northwest Italy, have “white-zone” designations.
Masks will still be required to be worn on public transport and well as indoors. Nearly 30 percent of people in Italy 12 or older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.