The Latest: US to send COVID-19 shots to Mexico, Canada

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is finalizing plans to send a combined 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the Biden administration is planning to send 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada as a “loan.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S. but has been authorized by the World Health Organization. The premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, thanked Biden for his willingness to share the vaccines.

Canadian regulators have approved the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but acquiring them has proven difficult. Canada ranks about 20th in the number of doses administered, with about 8% of the adult population getting at least one shot. That compares with about 38% in the U.K. and 22% in the U.S.

Mexico has fully vaccinated more than 600,000 people and more than 4 million have received a single dose in a country of 126 million.



The U.S. reported 58,480 new coronavirus cases and 1,173 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s second to Brazil, which reported 90,303 cases and 2,648 deaths.

VACCINES: More than 73.6 million people, or 22.2% 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 39 million people, or 12% 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 63,846 on March 3 to 54,821 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 1,846 on March 3 to 1,230 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

— President Biden plans to send COVID shots to Mexico, Canada

— EU agency: AstraZeneca vaccine safe, will add clot warning


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JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s ability to produce COVID-19 vaccines got a boost Thursday with the announcement that Biovac has signed a full manufacturing partnership with US-based ImmunityBio.

Biovac is a laboratory partly owned by the South African state. It has an agreement with ImmunityBio, which has a COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials, to produce the vaccine sometime next year.

Biovac, based in Cape Town, has the capacity to produce between 20 million and 30 million vaccines in a year.

Africa’s 54 countries have limited capacity to make vaccines, with only two laboratories on the continent able to fully manufacture vaccines. Those are Biovac and the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, which produces yellow fever vaccines. Three other African countries can partially manufacture vaccines.

South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare is awaiting approval to assemble the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a process of blending the ingredients sent in large batches and putting the vaccine into vials – the filling and finishing. Aspen said it has the capacity to produce 300 million doses annually of the J&J vaccine.


NEW YORK — It’s showtime! AMC Theatres says it will have 98% of its U.S. movie theaters open on Friday. Even more theaters are expected to open by March 26.

AMC says more than 40 of its locations in California are reopening on Friday and will open 52 of its 54 locations by Monday. The company is preparing to resume operations at the rest of its California locations once the proper local approvals are in place. AMC previously opened more than 500 of its theaters elsewhere around the country.

Some movie theaters have opened over the past few months with limited capacity and enhanced safety protocols.


LONDON — The European Union’s drug regulatory agency says experts have concluded the AstraZeneca vaccine is not linked to an overall increase in the risk of blood clots.

The finding from the European Medicines Agency could open the way for European countries that had suspended the use of the vaccine over the past week to resume dispensing the shots. The head of the EMA, Emer Cooke, says the vaccine is “safe and effective.” The agency says the benefits outweigh the risks.

EMA recommended adding a description of these cases to the vaccine leaflets so health workers and patients are aware of the rare blood clots.

Numerous European countries had suspended use of the vaccine in the past week amid concerns over blood clots. The clots have occurred in a few dozen people among the millions of vaccinated people across the continent.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to highlight his administration’s push to dramatically expand distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, as the nation is on the cusp of meeting his goal of injecting 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office.

Biden is likely to mark the occasion Thursday on his 58th day in office. He has made a priority in his early days in office to set clear and achievable metrics for success, whether it be vaccinations or school re-openings.

The U.S. has three vaccines that received emergency use authorization – Pfizer, Moderna and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The U.S. is injecting an average of about 2.2 million doses each day. The pace of vaccination is likely to dramatically expand later this month with an expected surge in supply of the vaccines.


LONDON — British regulators say people should keep getting AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine following its review of data on patients who suffered from blood clots after getting the shot.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency says there is no evidence that the vaccine causes blood clots in veins. The agency says a further review of five reports in the UK of a rare type of clot in the brain is continuing, but the condition, which can occur naturally, has been reported in less than 1 in a million people vaccinated so far and no causal link has been established.

The agency says the benefits of the vaccines against COVID-19 continue to outweigh any risks. It says the public should continue to get the vaccine when invited to do so.


NEW YORK — The NBA is relaxing some of its health and safety protocols for individuals who are fully vaccinated.

The changes include fewer mandated coronavirus tests, no quarantine requirements following contact tracing issues and even the ability to visit restaurants again.

Only one team — the New Orleans Pelicans — has publicly acknowledged a team-wide vaccination effort so far, doing so this past weekend after state rules in Louisiana were amended and made it possible for the team to start the process for players, coaches and staff. No one in the NBA will be considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving the final vaccine dose.

Once that happens, rules for some of those individuals will change, the NBA said in a memo sent early Thursday to teams and obtained by The Associated Press. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the All-Star Game this month that changes would be in store for those who choose to get the vaccine among the 30 NBA teams.


TOKYO — Japan says it will end a state of emergency in the Tokyo area set up to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

That’s despite concerns of a resurgence ahead of spring and next week’s Olympic torch relay. Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says the emergency will end Sunday. The decision underscores the government’s eagerness keep the economy going. However, some experts warned that although Tokyo has managed to bring down the rate of new infections, the decline has leveled off and could rebound.

The emergency began in January and centered around asking restaurants, bars and other businesses to close at 8 p.m. Suga says he supports preparations for the Olympics, which is scheduled to begin in July after being postponed last year.

Japan has managed to keep virus cases and deaths relatively low in the nation of 126 million without enforcing a hard lockdown. The Health Ministry reports about 450,000 total cases and more than 8,700 confirmed deaths. The U.S. leads the world with 29.6 million confirmed cases and more than 538,000 dead.


BRUSSELS — The European Union is planning to launch official dispute talks with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to ensure that it receives the vaccines it says the company has promised to deliver.

The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, which negotiated the “advanced purchasing agreement” with AstraZeneca, said Thursday that it wants to activate a clause in the deal opening 20 days of talks to fix the problem.

The 27 EU member countries must endorse the move first. Brussels says AstraZeneca originally pledged to deliver 90 million doses in the first three months of 2021 but is only on target to provide 30 million. In the second quarter, it will deliver 70 million doses, less than half of the 180 million it committed to, according to the Commission.


KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of Kyiv says Ukraine’s capital will go into a lockdown on Saturday because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says during the three-week lockdown until April 9, malls and theaters will be closed, cafes and restaurants will only serve takeout, school students will study from home and spectators won’t be allowed at sports events. All government employees will work from home.

“We need to win time and do everything in order to avoid a collapse of the health care system,” Klitschko said. “Kyiv is introducing tough lockdown restrictions because we need to save people’s lives and health.”

Ukraine surpassed 1.5 million cases on Thursday, after registering 15,053 new cases – the highest since November. Ukraine added a record 289 deaths, increasing the confirmed total to 29,253 deaths.


SOFIA, Bulgaria — Struggling with a surge in coronavirus infections, Bulgarian health officials announced a 10-day nationwide lockdown for schools, restaurants, theaters and shopping malls.

The new restrictions will be the last test for the center-right government of Boyko Borissov, who hopes to win a fourth term in the parliamentary elections on April 4.

The Balkan nation of 7 million has recorded 291,769 cases of the coronavirus and 11,715 confirmed deaths. Some 350,700 Bulgarians have been vaccinated with a first dose so far.


GENEVA — The head of a World Health Organization team working with Chinese colleagues to finish a long-awaited report into the origins of the coronavirus says it will have unanimous backing from its members.

Health expert Peter Ben Embarek says the team hopes the report will be ready for release next week. He says the report written by all the experts and part of a “long and complex” process. The report is a first-phase study that is expected to be followed by a more in-depth look later.

Ben Embarek is an expert on food safety and diseases that jump from animals to humans. He led a 10-person international team of experts that visited China in January and February. He acknowledged political pressures have loomed large over the virus pandemic.


BRUSSELS — Belgium is fearing another wave of coronavirus infections as new daily COVID-19 cases rose by nearly 30% over a week.

According to the Sciensano public health institute, an average of 3,052 daily infections were recorded over the past seven days, which is a 29% increase. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 also rose by 16% over the same period, but the number of daily deaths remained stable.

Belgian health authorities said earlier this week that the vaccination campaign in nursing homes has been intensive and might explain the plateau of deaths since a large proportion of people over 85 have been immunized.

According to Belgian media, the latest surge of infections could lead the government to reconsider its decision to relax pandemic restrictions next month.

A total of 22,600 people have died from coronavirus-related causes in Belgium, a country with 11.5 million inhabitants.


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