WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand says it will now use only the Pfizer vaccine to inoculate its population against the coronavirus, departing from earlier plans to use four different vaccines.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the strategy Monday, saying the decision was based on the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness. She said this would make it easier and fairer for all New Zealanders to have access to the same vaccine.
However, the strategy may also be driven in part by delays in getting vaccines approved. So far, New Zealand’s medical regulators have approved only the Pfizer vaccine and are reviewing two other shots.
Ardern said New Zealand has purchased 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough to inoculate all 5 million residents with the required two doses each. She said most of the doses are expected to arrive in New Zealand during the second half of this year.
New Zealand has so far completed inoculations of only a few thousand people, mainly border workers. The country has stamped out community spread of the virus, and inoculations are not considered as urgent as in many other countries.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
– With virus aid in sight, Democrats debate filibuster changes
– From vote to virus, misinformation campaign targets Latinos
– UK schools to reopen, backed by frequent virus testing
– Mass testing, mask wearing help Detroit slow virus’ pace
– 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:
SEOUL, South Korea – A South Korean province near the capital of Seoul has ordered local business owners and farmers to have all foreign employees tested for the coronavirus in the next 15 days, targeting tens of thousands of workers.
The mass testing campaign is the most significant step South Korean officials have taken yet to stem transmissions among migrant laborers, who often face harsh working and living conditions that health authorities say make them more vulnerable to infections.
The order issued Monday by Gyeonggi province Gov. Lee Jae-myung covers at least 85,000 legally hired migrant workers, with fines up to 3 million won ($2,600) for noncompliant employers.
The order also requires employees to ensure their undocumented workers get tested too. The province has encouraged these workers to come forward, saying they won’t be reported to immigration authorities if they are tested before March 22.
South Korea has confirmed more than 92,000 virus cases, including 1,642 deaths.
DETROIT – People who are homeless will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan starting Monday.
Health officials say it’s a critical step in curbing infections and making sure vulnerable populations have access.
“Our vulnerable populations are high priority for us right now,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said, according to the Lansing State Journal. “This opens the door to make sure that population is also vaccinated and we don’t continue to have outbreaks in shelters.”
The news comes as infection rates are dropping and vaccine campaigns are ramping up.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced the further loosening of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, easing capacity limits in restaurants and other businesses while also allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings.
WASHINGTON – Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be line for vaccinations in early 2022.
Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation” predicted that vaccines for teens will be available “maybe not the first day but certainly in the early part of the fall.”
Currently, three vaccines are approved for use in the United States. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-shot Moderna vaccine are approved for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 16 and up.
Trials are underway to determine the safety of vaccines on younger people.
Teenagers contract the coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Slovakia has become another country to have identified a fast-spreading coronavirus variant that is believed to originate in South Africa.
Slovakia’s Health Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Eliasova says the variant has been detected in seven samples. Four of the people returned from abroad, one of them from the African island of Zanzibar. Three have been infected at home.
Slovakia is one of the hardest-hit European Union countries. It has been recently facing a surge of another highly contagious variant found in Britain.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Slovak hospitals surpassed a record of 4,000 earlier this week.
LONDON – British children are gearing up to return to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to “start moving closer to a sense of normality.”
As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to U.K. classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.
“We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated.
High schools and colleges can reopen in phases to allow for testing. The U.K. government has distributed nearly 57 million rapid “lateral flow” test kits to schools across the country, but there are concerns about the accuracy of the tests, which may result in pupils being forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.
But Susan Hopkins, a director at Public Health England, told the BBC on Sunday that evidence from testing over the past eight weeks suggested less than 1 in 1,000 tests resulted in a false positive.
Britain has had Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with nearly 125,000 COVID-19 deaths.
FLORIDA CITY, Fla. – A Florida vaccination site had so few eligible takers Saturday that it started inoculating any adult who wanted a shot rather than let the vaccine on hand go to waste.
Word spread and on Sunday the Florida City site was overwhelmed, particularly after local state Sen. Annette Taddeo incorrectly tweeted that the federally-run site would again take all comers. The Democrat, who was the party’s lieutenant governor candidate in 2014, later deleted that tweet and corrected herself.
Police had to calm the crowd when the site again enforced the state’s eligibility rules: 65 and older; frontline medical workers and police officers, teachers and firefighters over 50; and younger people with a physician’s note saying they would be endangered if they caught the virus.
According to the Miami Herald, a Florida City police officer through a megaphone told 200 people waiting in line, “If you do not meet the criteria, you will not be vaccinated today.” Vaccines must be refrigerated at extremely cold temperatures and used that day once they are removed.
BUCHAREST, Romania – Around 3,000 anti-vaccination protesters from across Romania converged outside the parliament building in Bucharest on Sunday as authorities announced new restrictions amid a rise of COVID-19 infections.
It has been less than six weeks since COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in Bucharest, but rising infections have prompted authorities to reimpose tighter restrictions for a 14-day period effective as of Monday.
The restrictions will see bars, restaurants, theaters, gambling venues, and cafes close indoor spaces as the capital’s infection rate rose above three cases per 1,000 inhabitants over a 14-day rolling period – effectively entering a “red scenario,” which the authorities use as a threshold to manage both restrictions and the spread of the virus.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.
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