Study: Moderna vaccine lasts at least 6 months

By The Associated Press undefined
BOSTON — New research suggests the protection the Moderna vaccine gives against COVID-19 lasts for at least six months.
The report Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine echoes what Pfizer said last week about its vaccine, which works in a similar way.
Both reports were based on follow-up tests in dozens of people who received the shots during studies that led to the vaccines’ use. Those studies were done before troubling new variants, or versions of the coronavirus, had emerged and started to spread.
A separate report in the medical journal adds to concern about the variants. Scientists measured antibodies that can block the virus in 50 people who had been given the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines that were developed in China. Many showed total or partial loss of effectiveness against a virus variant first detected in South Africa.
The vaccines still seemed to protect against a variant first found in the United Kingdom that is now rapidly spreading in the United States and elsewhere.
Pfizer and Moderna have said they are working to update their vaccines, or possibly design a booster shot, in case they’re needed against variants.

NAIROBI, Kenya — Tanzania’s new president appears to be taking a scientific approach to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan says she will form a technical committee to advise her about the scope of COVID-19 infections in the country and how to respond to the pandemic. Hassan says COVID-19 is “not something we should be quiet about or refuse flatly or accept without doing a scientific examination.”
She said her government will do medical research to find out the scope of the problem and advise Tanzania about what the world is recommending as well as local expertise.
Hassan’s comments are a dramatic switch from the policy of her predecessor, the late President John Magufuli, who was one of Africa’s leading COVID-19 deniers. He claimed in June that Tanzania had rid itself of COVID-19 through three days of national prayer. He dismissed scientific approaches to prevent and treat the disease. He discouraged the use of face masks and instead promoted prayer, physical fitness and herbal remedies.
Hassan announced Magufuli’s death on March 17, saying it was due to heart failure. She was sworn in as Tanzania’s first woman president on March 19. Tanzania’s opposition leaders say the 61-year-old Magufuli died of COVID-19, the disease he had downplayed.
BRUSSELS — Despite its slow vaccination drive, the European Union says it is still on target to reach what it calls “sufficient community immunity” by the end of June.
The European Commission has said it wants to vaccinate a minimum 70% of the entire adult population by the end of summer. But it is counting on a strong second quarter of vaccine production to reach a threshold of immunity already by the end of June, according to EU Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker.
With some 107 million doses already distributed and up to 360 million slated for the next three months, the EU said Tuesday the target is within reach.
Our World in Data group says the share of people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the EU is 12.8%. The U.K stands at 46% and the U.S. at 31%.
NEW DELHI — The world’s largest vaccine maker, based in India, will restart exports of AstraZeneca doses by June if coronavirus infections subside in the country, its chief executive says.
But a continued surge could result in more delays because the Serum Institute of India would have to meet domestic needs, Adar Poonawalla says in an interview with The Associated Press.
The company is a key supplier for the U.N.-backed COVAX program that aims to distribute vaccines equitably in the world. COVAX says a surge in infections in India has caused the Serum Institute of India to cater to domestic demand, resulting in a delay in global shipments of up to 90 million doses.
The government has intensified its vaccination drive in recent weeks, but the shots have been slow to reach the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people.
India reported 96,982 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours on Tuesday. Deaths rose by 446, increasing the total to 165,547 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic. India reported 12.7 million total cases, the highest after the United States and Brazil.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Tuesday.
Rowley was tested after experiencing flu-like symptoms on Monday, according to a government statement. He is isolated and under medical supervision.
Rowley had spent the Easter holidays in Tobago and was scheduled to be vaccinated on Tuesday, the same day the twin-island nation launched its vaccination program after receiving more than 33,000 AstraZeneca doses.
The country of 1.2 million people has reported more than 8,000 coronavirus cases and 145 confirmed deaths.
MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada is hospitalized on a ventilator after being infected by the coronavirus.
Estrada’s son, former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, says his 83-year-old father was hospitalized more than a week ago and initially was recovering well but his condition “suffered a setback” Monday and prompted doctors to place him on a ventilator.
Also, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says he tested positive for the coronavirus and will go into isolation.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the Manila metropolis and four outlying provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, back under lockdown amid an alarming spike in infections. Overall, the Philippines has reported more than 812,000 confirmed cases and 13,817 confirmed deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.
MADRID — Spain is stepping up its vaccination drive, according to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
He says an increase in deliveries in the coming months will allow the country to vaccinate 70% of the adult population against the coronavirus by the end of August. To help the rollout pick up speed, some cities are opening mass vaccination centers.
Sánchez says “the priority now, more than ever, is to vaccinate without respite. Vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate.”
He expects 38 million doses between April and June, about 3.5 times more than in January-March when vaccine deliveries across Europe fell short of the anticipated amounts.
Spain aims to receive 87 million doses by September for the population of 33 million, with Sánchez saying, “Anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.”
On Monday, Spain reported 2,247 new cases and 85 deaths. In total, there’s been 3.3 million cases and more than 75,000 confirmed deaths.
BERLIN — A German state on the border with France is allowing the limited reopening of businesses including cinemas, gyms and outdoor areas of restaurants, just as calls mount for stricter national lockdown rules amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
German authorities in areas where infection rates are relatively low can allow more businesses to open for people who have tested negative. Saarland, one of Germany’s smallest states, decided to apply that to the entire state on Tuesday and drew criticism.
Saarland officials contend their state has a relatively low infection rate and a relatively high number of vaccinations, and more testing will ensure that fewer infections go undetected.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors are due to meet Monday to decide how to proceed with coronavirus restrictions. There are increasing calls for tougher restrictions as the spread of a more contagious variant first detected in Britain has led to increasing infections across Germany.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Sri Lankan government has lifted the one-year restrictions imposed on Sri Lankans, allowing entry into the country without prior approval but requiring quarantine.
Sri Lankans, dual citizens who travel on Sri Lankan passports, spouses and unmarried children of Sri Lankans and Sri Lankan seafarers arriving by air are now permitted to enter Sri Lanka without approval of the country’s Foreign Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority.
However, those arriving are required to undergo a mandatory 14-days quarantine program — seven-days at a government-run center or a selected hotel and another seven days at home.
Sri Lanka imposed restrictions on their citizens travelling from other countries a year ago, ordering them to get permission from the government agencies before landing in the country.
By Tuesday, Sri Lanka registered 93,595 total cases and 586 confirmed deaths.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — More than 1,000 Bosnians have marched in the capital Sarajevo demanding government resignation over poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The protesters on Tuesday blocked traffic in a central street in Sarajevo while wearing masks and carrying banners that urged access to vaccines and virus testing. Hundreds more people backed the blockade in their cars, honking horns through the city.
The protesters are blaming the government for a high death rate in Bosnia and because they failed to acquire vaccines early on. The country has started vaccination with donations from abroad and a shipment through international COVAX mechanism.
Bosnia has had among the highest death rates in Europe, with nearly 7,000 dead in the country of 3.3 million.
The protesters gave the current authorities two weeks to resign, pledging more protests. One of the organizers, Maja Gasal-Vrazalica, tells the authorities to “move away if you don’t know how” to deal with the health crisis.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to announce he’s shaving about two weeks off his May 1 deadline for states to make all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccines.
A White House official confirms Biden plans to announce every adult in the U.S. will be eligible to be vaccinated by April 19. Biden will make the announcement at the White House on Tuesday following a visit to a vaccination site in Virginia.
States have been gradually expanding eligibility beyond such priority groups as seniors and essential front-line workers. Biden announced just last week that 90% of adults would be eligible for one of three approved vaccines by April 19, in addition to having a vaccination site within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of where they live.
The White House said Monday that nearly 1 in 3 Americans and over 40% of adults have received at least one shot, and nearly 1 in 4 adults is fully vaccinated. Among older people, 75% have received at least one shot, and more than 55% are fully vaccinated.
The White House official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans before the formal announcement. CNN was first to report on Biden’s planned announcement. — Darlene Superville.
NEW YORK — New Yorkers over 16 years old can sign up for COVID-19 vaccination starting Tuesday.
That’s a large expansion of eligibility as the state seeks to immunize as many people as possible. Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded eligibility to 30 and over last week and announced people age 16 to 29 would be eligible on April 6.
Teens age 16 and 17 will be limited to receiving the Pfizer vaccine, since it is the only one authorized for use by people under 18. None of the available vaccines have been approved for people under 16.
Vaccinating most Americans is plenty tough — and it’s worse for prisoners.
About half the country has opened up coronavirus vaccine eligibility beyond initial restrictions, vastly expanding the ability for most people to get a shot in the arm. But inside prisons, it’s a different story. Prisoners aren’t free to seek out vaccines and generally still lack access.
Data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press show fewer than 20% of state and federal prisoners have been vaccinated. In some states, prisoners and advocates have resorted to lawsuits to get access.
Since the pandemic first reached prisons in March 2020, about 3 in 10 prisoners have tested positive and 2,500 have died. Prisons are often overcrowded, with limited access to health care and protective gear, and populations inside are more likely to have preexisting medical conditions.
SEOUL, South Korea — Health officials in South Korea are considering measures to prevent a shortage in coronavirus vaccines and haven’t specifically ruled out curbing exports of AstraZeneca shots produced in the country.
Concern has been growing about delayed shipments of vaccines as the United States, European countries and India take steps to strengthen control over vaccine exports to deal with shortages at home.
When asked about the possibility of South Korea restricting vaccine exports, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency official Jeong Yoo-jin said Tuesday she wasn’t yet able to comment on specific steps but added that officials were reviewing “as much possible measures” they could.
Jeong’s tone seemed different from a briefing last week when she said clearly that officials weren’t considering restricting exports of the AstraZeneca shots manufactured by South Korea’s SK Bioscience. She then said such a move could trigger an international backlash that would potentially disrupt the country’s efforts to secure vaccines from different sources.
South Korea has wrestled with a slower rollout of vaccines than many other developed economies after officials insisted on a wait-and-see approach because its outbreak wasn’t as dire as in America and Europe. The country’s mass immunization program has so far been mainly reliant on locally produced AstraZeneca shots, although it did secure a smaller volume of Pfizer shots that are now being used for elders.
About a million South Koreans have received their first doses of vaccines as of Tuesday. Officials hope to vaccinate 70% of the country’s 51 million people before the start of the new influenza season around November.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will start coronavirus vaccinations for foreign health workers and other foreigners, including Afghan refugees, who are older than 60 as COVID-19 deaths surge in this impoverished nation.
The government is not charging for the vaccinations, which were being given only to Pakistani health workers and older people. That left foreigners relying on vaccines imported by the private sector, which are expensive.
After four decades of war and conflict in neighboring Afghanistan, more than 1.5 million Afghans live as refugees in Pakistan.
The government notification said vaccinations of foreign health workers will be handled on parity with Pakistani health workers. Dr. Rana Mohammad Safdar, a senior health official, said Tuesday that instructions have been issued to relevant authorities in this regard.
On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 103 deaths from COVID-19, one of the highest single-day fatalities since January.
Pakistan has had 696,184 cases and 14,924 deaths from the disease since last year.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has decided to buy 6 million more Sputnik V vaccines, raising the total it plans to purchase from Russia to 13 million doses.
The government plans to inoculate 14 million people out of Sri Lanka’s population of 22 million, and so far has approved the vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm.
Cabinet ministers approved the health minister’s proposal for the purchase, Cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said Tuesday. It comes two weeks after the government said it would buy 7 million Sputnik V doses at a cost of $69.65 million.
Sri Lanka has vaccinated 903,000 people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It will use donated Sinopharm doses to inoculate Chinese workers in Sri Lanka but will not administer the vaccine to Sri Lankans without World Health Organization approval.
It has received 1,264,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and has said it would buy another 13.5 million.
HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19 a few days after receiving his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The governor’s office released a statement Monday evening saying Gianforte was tested after experiencing mild symptoms a day earlier.
Gianforte plans to isolate for 10 days on the advice of his doctor and public health guidance. He also has notified all of the people with whom he has had close contact. All of the governor’s in-person events have been canceled, and he plans to work from his home in Bozeman.
Gianforte received his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine Thursday.