The Latest: U.S. launches site to locate antibody treatment
WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials have created a website to help people find where they can get antibody drugs for COVID-19, medicines that may help prevent serious illness and hospitalization if used early enough after infection occurs.
Two of these drugs — from Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals — have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S. but red tape, health care staff shortages and other problems have prevented many patients and doctors from getting them.
Department of Health and Human Services officials said Monday that only 25% of the more than 641,000 treatment courses distributed to states and local health sites have been used as of last week.
A big problem has been finding a place that has the drugs. The web site includes a tool where people can find locations administering the treatment within 50 miles. Doctors will determine if patients meet the criteria. Treatment must start within 10 days of first symptoms.
The drugs are free, although people may be charged a fee for the IV infusion, a one-time treatment that takes about an hour.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— President-elect Joe Biden faces challenge in guiding America past the Trump era, but success on virus, economy may help
— Health expert says worst time for Britain’s National Health Service is hitting now
— China says World Health Organization experts will arrive Thursday to investigate the origins of the pandemic
— A doctor using a horse-drawn cart to reach patients in mountain villages in Ukraine worries that its lockdown came too late
— India took a regulatory shortcut for a homegrown vaccine despite scant evidence of its effectiveness
— Follow AP’s 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:
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut will open its first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the University of Connecticut’s football stadium within the next 10 days as the state prepares to administer shots to residents ages 75 and older, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.
Rentschler Field in East Hartford will be providing mass vaccinations along with about a half-dozen other large sites that will open over the next two weeks to provide the shots, the governor said.
Vaccinations also will be available at private providers’ offices and health clinics. Connecticut also plans to offer the shots through mobile vaccination units for poor and other underserved communities.
Health care workers have been among the first to be vaccinated in Connecticut, and the state recently finished vaccinating nursing home residents.
Advanced registration for vaccinations for people 75 and older is scheduled to begin Thursday, with the group receiving shots beginning next Monday, Jan. 18.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Texas will be able to rapidly increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations by using new mass hubs for getting shots, but the effort is still limited by the supply of medicine coming from the federal government.
Texas is one of several states opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.
The state has seen a surge in newly confirmed coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. State health officials report more than 13,000 coronavirus patients currently in hospitals statewide, and nearly 30,000 deaths since the pandemic started.
PHOENIX — Under sunny skies in the Glendale stadium parking lot, Arizona Department of Health Services director Dr. Cara Christ marked a “soft launch” of the drive-thru site by helping vaccinate two dozen teachers and state troopers.
The site will fully transition to an around-the-clock operation at midnight. The goal is to vaccinate 6,000 people per day, Christ said.
“Today as we mark the opening of this facility, it’s my privilege as a medical doctor to administer some of the first doses of vaccine,” said Christ, who previously received both doses herself and reported no side effects.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s plan to expand access to the coronavirus vaccine for people over 65 is off to a rocky start.
The websites of at least two public health districts crashed Monday, and other districts reported overwhelming demand for appointments. The state was already struggling with its vaccine rollout before the latest woes.
Coastal Health District Director Lawton Davis said he understood people were frustrated, but health departments were stretched thin. Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday he wasn’t happy with the state’s progress in administering the vaccine, and officials had to “keep moving the needle.”
The state has now opened up vaccine access to law enforcement, firefighters and first responders in addition to people over 65.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is boosting its distribution of coronavirus vaccines to the elderly.
The state on Monday increased the number of doses available to people ages 70 and older this week and expanded the locations where they can get the shots to include every parish of the state.
The Department of Health’s list of pharmacies offering the vaccine to the elderly numbered 107 last week. It has grown to 209 pharmacies and health clinics this week.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’s administration also is steering thousands more doses to the facilities for vaccinations of people 70 and older.
Demand remains certain to exceed supply. People need to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
SAN DIEGO — Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first cases among such primates in captivity.
Lisa Peterson, the park’s executive director, told The Associated Press on Monday that eight gorillas at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing.
It appears the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team that also tested positive for the virus but has been asymptomatic. Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas who are all together in their habitat at the park, north of San Diego.
DETROIT — Detroit’s call center was jammed with more than 100,000 calls Monday as the city took appointments for shots at a downtown convention center, starting Wednesday. Officials planned to schedule 20,000 appointments over the next month for people 75 and older.
Police officers and bus drivers can start to get vaccinated at a downtown convention center at the end of the week.
“We do not have the capacity to answer questions from people under 75 or non-Detroiters about vaccinations in general,” chief operating officer Hakim Berry said.
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan has received its first shipment of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine before its vaccination drive kicks off this week.
The doses arrived at the country’s Alia airport on a Royal Jordanian Airlines flight on Monday following an earlier shipment over the weekend of Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm’s vaccine.
Officials have not said exactly how many doses arrived Monday and more shipments are expected in the coming weeks. Jordan’s health minister has said that the kingdom expects to secure enough vaccine to inoculate 20% of its 10.5 million people and that additional doses would be obtained as needed.
Jordan begins vaccinating its population on Wednesday, starting with front-line workers and vulnerable groups. More than 150,000 people have registered to receive the vaccine so far.
The kingdom has recorded more than 4,000 virus-related deaths and 308,600 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
PHOENIX — Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arizona reached another new high as the state ramps up its vaccine efforts, including converting an NFL stadium into an around -the-clock vaccination site.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported Monday that a record 4,997 people were hospitalized because of the virus. Among them, more than 1,100 were in intensive care units.
Those numbers are significantly above what the state now considered a hotspot experienced during its last surge in July.
Health officials say there are nearly 9,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths. This now brings Arizona’s coronavirus totals to 627,541 cases and 10,147 deaths.
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana state health officials say a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in the U.K. late last year has been found in the state.
The Indiana State Department of Health said the variant was identified through testing by the state agency’s laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but Monday’s announcement included no additional information on its discovery in the state.
State Health Commissioner Kris Box said in a statement the variant “does not cause more severe infections, but it is much more easily spread.”
She said its discovery means that “it’s more important than ever” for residents to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned that even as countries start rolling out vaccination programs to stop COVID-19, there will be no chance of herd immunity this year.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said on Monday it was critical countries and their populations maintain strict social distancing and other virus restrictions for the foreseeable future. Countries including Britain, the US, France, Canada, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands have started inoculating millions of their citizens against the virus in recent weeks.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, an adviser to WHO’s director-general, said the U.N. health agency was hoping vaccinations in poorer countries might begin in late January or February.
He said the WHO needed the cooperation of vaccine manufacturers alongside money and logistical help to start immunizing poorer populations and aims to have a “a rollout plan” next month.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s health minister said Monday he is expecting the resignation of the rector of Warsaw Medical University after an inquiry showed that almost half the vaccines it has administered went to celebrities and opposition politicians instead of university hospital medics.
Health minister Adam Niedzielski said it was an intentional act by the university hospital and that the rector, Zbigniew Gaciong, should take responsibility and offer his resignation.
The university hospital was fined roughly $95,000.
The mostly elderly celebrities say they believed they were taking part in a promotion of the national inoculation program when they were vaccinated in late December — a vaccination window designated for health care employees and their families.
Niedzielski said some 30 university employees were not vaccinated thanks to the celebrities.
The celebrities whose names have been revealed by local media are strong critics of the right-wing government.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch municipality is planning to test all of its residents two years of age or older following a coronavirus outbreak at an elementary school that included cases of the more transmissible variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.
Lansingerland municipality’s decision to test nearly all of its 62,000 residents marks the first time such a mass test has happened in the Netherlands since the pandemic began.
The local health authority said last week that a cluster of some 75 virus cases linked to a school in the town of Bergschenhoek included 30 positive tests of the new variant.
The mass test aims to study the spread of the new variant and quell its spread in the municipality close to the port city of Rotterdam.
All elementary schools in the Netherlands are closed as part of a strict five-week lockdown that is widely expected to be extended this week.
MADRID — Spain has reported more than 61,000 new coronavirus infections since the last Health Ministry update on Friday and 401 confirmed fatalities, a sharp increase that the country’s top coronavirus expert pitted on Christmas gatherings rather than the new virus variant identified in the U.K.
Fernando Simón, who leads Spain’s health emergency coordination center, says that the country has found 70 cases of the new variant.
“In our case, the evolution we are seeing,” he said “is a problem of the behavior that we’ve had in the past few days.”
Spain’s 14-day cumulative incidence, considered a good thermometer by experts of the contagion, shot up to 435 cases per 100,000 residents with Monday’s data.
Coronavirus patients are keeping busy 14% of the country’s hospital beds, a share that almost doubles to 26% in intensive care wards.
The country has recorded 2.1 million infections and at least 52,000 deaths for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools’ students are starting to return to classroom learning as doors open to thousands of pre-kindergarten and some special education students.
The third-largest school district in the U.S. began Monday to phase-in classroom instruction after going remote last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Students in kindergarten through 8th grade will have the option to return Feb. 1. or continue with online learning. District officials haven’t provided data on exactly how many students have returned or how many teachers showed up for work.
The Chicago Teachers Union has opposed reopening plans due to concerns about the danger of contracting the coronavirus in school.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he hopes vaccinations against the coronavirus will begin later this week after authorities complete their final regulatory tests for the approval of China’s SinoVac vaccine.
“God willing, our (vaccination) campaign will begin on Thursday or Friday,” Erdogan told reporters following a Cabinet meeting.
The first shipment of 3 million doses of the SinoVac vaccine reached Turkey late last month. The country is expected to receive a total of 50 million vaccine doses.
Erdogan also said that talks were continuing with Germany’s BioNTech for the purchase of the vaccine it is jointly producing with Pfizer.
Earlier, Turkey had said it had reached an agreement for the purchase of some 30 million doses of that vaccine.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization said the recent surge in global coronavirus cases is largely due to “the increased mixing of people,” not the newly identified virus variants.
In a press briefing Monday, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said that the spike in cases in numerous countries was detected before the new variants were identified.
Van Kerkhove noted that during the summer, COVID-19 cases were down to single digits in most countries across Europe.
“We lost the battle because we changed our mixing patterns over the summer, into the fall and especially around Christmas and the New Year,” she said. “That has had a direct impact on the exponential growth that you have seen in many countries,” she said.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, said while there is some evidence the new variants may be accelerating the spread of COVID-19, there is no evidence that they are driving “any element of severity.”
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s government said Monday that primary school pupils of the three youngest levels will return to schools Jan. 18.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said the “very difficult decision” was taken because the number of new confirmed COVID-19 infections has stabilized and there have been no recent spikes in new cases or deaths.
Niedzielski said the health care system has substantial reserves for treating coronavirus patients, with 16,000 specialized beds still available, while the nationwide vaccination program is underway.
Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek said teachers returning to classrooms will be tested for the coronavirus this week to make sure they can resume work.
Other pandemic-related restrictions that have shuttered shopping malls, restaurants, fitness clubs, schools and universities will remain in place. People are still required to wear masks at all times outdoors and keep a safe distance.