By The Associated Press undefined
WASHINGTON — The National Institutes of Health is launching research to understand the causes and consequences of the lingering brain fog, breathing problems and malaise reported by many recovering COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says some studies have shown up to 30% of patients report symptoms that can endure for months, complicating their return to normal routines and work, and plunging many recovering patients into depression.
Fauci noted at a White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday that work at NIH started this week thanks to more than $1 billion provided by Congress for COVID-related medical research. Government scientists are looking to enlist doctors and research institutions around the country in the effort to learn about “long-haul” COVID-19.
Fauci says a critical issue is whether COVID-19 predisposes some patients to other medical problems later, such as conditions affecting the heart or brain.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
CVS, Walgreens to give out shots in more states this week. Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 shot poised for FDA decision. UK to push at G-7 for global standard for vaccine passports. South Africa to spend $172 million on mass vaccination drive.
— Follow all of 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:
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa plans to spend $712 million to vaccinate some 67% of its 60 million people and help the economy to rebound.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni says the vaccination drive will help South Africa’s economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa, to rebound by 3.4% this year.
Mboweni says the vaccines would be given to all South Africans free of charge. Last week South Africa launched the first phase of its vaccination campaign in which it is inoculating an estimated 500,000 front-line health care workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as a large-scale observational study.
The J&J vaccine is authorized for testing purposes in South Africa but has not yet been approved for general use.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland will require surgical masks nationwide on Saturday and ban scarfs, shawls or headgear as substitutes.
Headgear can only be worn together with a mask, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said Wednesday. The decision comes after an increase in coronavirus cases to more than 12,000 Wednesday, from a daily average of about 7,000 the previous week.
Because of high COVID-19 incidence in neighboring Czech Republic and Slovakia, all people entering Poland from those countries need a 10-day quarantine, unless they show a negative test taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival. More than 2.8 million people have been vaccinated, half with the second dose.
A nation of 38 million, Poland has registered nearly 1.7 million infections and almost 43,000 confirmed deaths.
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS and Walgreens drugstores will start doling out COVID-19 vaccinations in more states on Thursday.
The drugstore chains say they have received additional vaccine doses from the federal government after they used up their initial allotment. Both companies started giving out vaccines on Feb. 12 to eligible customers at stores in several states.
CVS Health Corp. says it will add stores in six states, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania to a list of 11 that includes big markets like California, New York and Texas. The Woonsocket, Rhode Island, company received another 570,000 doses from the government.
Walgreens said late last week that it will receive an additional 480,000 doses to distribute at its stores. The company started in 15 states and territories and is expanding drugstore vaccines into 10 more states, including California, Oregon and Virginia.
The Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said it went through nearly all of its initial shipment of 180,000 doses in three days.
Both companies run thousands of stores around the country and plan to expand their vaccine distribution at drugstores into more states as supplies allow. Customers must schedule appointments before they can receive the vaccines.
Since late last year, the drugstore chains have been sending out teams to vaccinate residents of nursing homes and other long-term care locations. A third national drugstore chain, Rite Aid Corp., also started delivering doses to customers this month at stores in the Northeast and California.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says home tests for COVID-19 may help the country “regain a bit more freedom” after authorities approved the first such tests for personal use on Wednesday.
Jens Spahn says the tests, already widely used in other countries such as neighboring Austria, could provide “an important contribution” to people’s sense of security going forward.
Spahn told lawmakers that Germany is already seeing the positive effect of vaccinations in those over 80, who received the shots first. But he’s concerned about the spread of other variants.
Germany’s disease control agency reported more than 8,000 new cases in the past day and 422 confirmed deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has registered more than 2.4 million infections and 68,740 confirmed deaths.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — People who quarantine upon entry in Norway must stay at their point of entry and not travel further until the 10-day quarantine has been completed, the Norwegian Justice Minister Monica Maeland said.
The Norwegian government also introduced a mandatory reporting for everyone staying in such quarantine hotels and municipalities now must keep an eye on the guests at the quarantine hotels, which until now has only been recommended.
Last month, Norway temporarily closed its borders , including airports and with neighboring Sweden for the first time since 1954 to limit the spread of a variant. Only Norwegian nationals and foreign nationals residing in Norway can enter the country, with a few exceptions.
Camilla Stoltenberg, head of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, says the variant first reported in Britain will “soon” represent half the cases in Norway. It’s currently 20% to 30%, she says.
GENEVA — Switzerland’s government will reopen shops, museums and libraries and allow more people to gather at sports and cultural events starting next week.
Confirming plans laid out last week, President Guy Parmelin acknowledged public frustration and pressure for a faster re-opening but called for “discipline” in the face of new variants spreading in the country. He says a reopening of restaurants and bars is planned for April 1 but could be moved forward “if the situation continues to improve.”
He noted vaccinations and tests were increasing, “so there are reasons to remain confident.”
Health Minister Alain Berset pointed to a drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and case counts in recent days, but noted about 60 percent of new cases were of a new variant.
WASHINGTON — An analysis by U.S. regulators say Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine protects against COVID-19.
The report Wednesday confirmed the vaccine is about 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19.
On Friday, a panel of experts to the Food and Drug Administration will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend the vaccine. The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days.
If the FDA clears the J&J shot for U.S. use, it won’t boost vaccine supplies significantly right away. Only a few million doses are expected to be ready for shipping in the first week.
J&J tested its single-dose option in 44,000 people in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa. J&J previously announced the vaccine worked better in the U.S. — 72% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19, compared with 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa.
Still, in every country it was highly effective against the most serious symptoms, and early study results showed no hospitalizations or deaths starting 28 days after vaccination.
BUDAPEST — Hungary became the first country in the European Union to begin using a COVID-19 vaccine produced in China and expects to inoculate up to 275,000 people by the end of the week.
Medical staff around the Central European country were instructed to administer the shots, developed by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm, to elderly patients. The Sinopharm shot brings the number of vaccines currently in use in Hungary to five, more than in any other country in the EU.
“Today is an important day, because we are starting to administer the Chinese vaccine,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video on Facebook on Wednesday, who plans to get the shot next week.
Hungary has agreed to purchase 5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine in the next four months, enough to inoculate 2.5 million people with the two-round shot in the country of 10 million.
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — Two predominantly Latino cities in neighboring states have had diverging fates in the global rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
Central Falls, Rhode Island, and Chelsea, Massachusetts, have been the hardest-hit communities in the states. Rhode Island has opened up vaccinations to all Central Fall residents 18 or older, and city officials say they’re on pace to inoculate most residents by the summer.
Massachusetts hasn’t done the same for Chelsea or other hard-hit communities of color. Public health experts, civil rights groups and immigrant activists have said for months the state, led by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, isn’t doing nearly enough to ensure that Black and Latino residents are inoculated.
White residents have so far received 66% of all doses in the state while Black residents have received about 5% and Latino residents 4%, according to state data. Meanwhile, Black and Latino residents are dying from the virus at three times the rate of whites in Massachusetts, by some measures.
BERLIN — Authorities in Austria say all residents of an Alpine town will be required to take coronavirus tests after a cluster of cases involving the South African variant was discovered there.
Officials in Tyrol state say 29 of the 42 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Mayrhofen involved the virus type that experts say may be more resistant to currently available vaccines than the dominant variant.
Residents can only leave the town between Saturday and Wednesday if they present a negative PCR test result for the coronavirus, considered the ‘gold standard’ for testing. Schools, kindergartens, non-essential stores and churches will remain closed for a week.
Outbreaks in Tyrol have caused concern in Austria and beyond for leading to the spread of infections throughout Europe as tourists carry the virus back home from vacations.
BEIJING — China is moving ahead with two more COVID-19 vaccines in the regulatory process, one from state-owned company Sinopharm and another from a private company CanSino.
Both vaccines have submitted been to regulators for approval this week. CanSino said that Chinese regulators are reviewing its application for its COVID-19 vaccine, in a stock filing on Wednesday. Sinopharm’s subsidiary the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products announced Wednesday that it had submitted an application Sunday and that regulators were reviewing it.
China already has approved two vaccines that it has been using in a mass immunization campaign. One of them is also from Sinopharm, but it was developed by its Beijing subsidiary. The other is the Sinovac vaccine.
The Wuhan shot from Sinopharm is 72.51% effective, the company said. Both shots from Sinopharm rely on inactivated viruses, a traditional technology.
CanSino’s vaccine is a one-dose shot that relies on a harmless common cold virus, called an adenovirus, to deliver the spike gene of the virus into the body. The technology is similar to both Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines, which rely on different adenoviruses.
CanSino’s vaccine is 65.28% effective, the company said Wednesday.
Neither company has published its trial data in peer-reviewed scientific journals yet.
ACCRA, Ghana — Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines acquired through the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, with a delivery Wednesday of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.
The vaccines shots, delivered by UNICEF, arrived at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport and are part of the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines that COVAX is sending to several low- and middle-income countries.
Ghana is among 92 low-and middle-income countries that are receiving vaccines for free through COVAX program, which aims to ensure wider access to vaccines around the world. Another 90 countries and eight territories have agreed to pay to receive vaccines through COVAX.
The West African nation of 30 million has recorded 81,245 coronavirus cases and 584 deaths in the pandemic.
LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese officials say the unexpectedly slow pace of vaccine deliveries likely means delays for plans to send batches to the country’s former colonies in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Portugal has promised to send 5% of the vaccines it receives to five African countries and East Timor. Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva says the government estimates it will be able to start sending vaccines abroad only in the second half of the year.
He says, “The goal is not compromised. The timing just needs to be adjusted.”
Portugal has already sent medical equipment worth 3.5 million euros ($4.3 million) to East Timor, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guiné-Bissau and São Tomé e Príncipe.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark eased some coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, saying older students in the north and east can return to school while some larger non-food shops can reopen on Monday.
So far, Denmark has kept all shops except food stores and pharmacies closed. This month, schools resumed teaching younger children up to the fourth grade. A limit of 5 people in outdoor public gatherings was raised to 25 people during organized sports.
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says the reopenings mean more infections and more hospitalizations were expected. But with a mild spring coming and the nation’s vaccination program, further reopenings were possible.
Denmark has registered 2,343 confirmed deaths and 208,556 cases.
PRAGUE — The Czech prime minister says the pandemic situation in his country, one of the hardest-hit in the European Union, is “extremely serious” and his government will have to impose more restrictions to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the measures are needed to prevent “a total catastrophe” in hospitals that have been coming close to their limits.
The government will decide those measures later Wednesday. Babis says they will be similar to those in place last spring when the borders and schools were completely closed. He also mentioned possible restrictions to limit movement of people.
The daily increase of new confirmed cases reached 15,672 Wednesday, about 3,000 more than a week ago. A total of 6,817 COVID-19 patients needed intensive care.
The country had almost 1.2 million confirmed cases and nearly 20,000 confirmed deaths.
NEW DELHI — India will start inoculating people above 60, and those with underlying health problems above age 45 in the second phase of its massive vaccination drive from March 1.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar says the vaccinations will be done in 10,000 public and 20,000 private hospitals. Javadekar told reporters on Wednesday that vaccine shots in government hospitals will be free, but did not say how much it will cost in private hospitals.
India started inoculating health workers beginning on Jan. 16.
India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. The government has authorized emergency use of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and a homegrown vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech.
Coronavirus cases are increasing in some parts of India after months of a steady nationwide decline In many cities, markets are bustling, roads are crowded and restaurants are nearly full. The country is reporting about 11,000 to 13,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000. in September.