The Latest: WH: US to buy 200M more doses of Pfizer vaccine

WASHINGTON — The federal government is buying 200 million more doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to prepare for future needs, such as boosters and shots for kids under 12.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says the Biden administration wants to have “maximum flexibility” to address changing conditions, and it’s “going to prepare for every contingency.”

The additional doses will be delivered between this fall and spring of next year.

It’s unclear whether booster shots will be needed for fully vaccinated people, but breakthrough infections attributed to the rapidly spreading delta variant have sparked a discussion. Most new coronavirus cases in vaccinated people have been mild or asymptomatic.

Likewise, it is still unclear if coronavirus vaccines will be approved for younger children.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— AP poll: Most unvaccinated unlikely to get shots

— European agency clears Moderna vaccine for children 12-17

— Tokyo Olympics are arriving at last, after a yearlong delay

— In Canada and Zimbabwe, paths to vaccination diverge

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BATON ROUGE — More than 1,000 people are hospitalized in Louisiana with COVID-19, the most since early February.

The state’s health department showed 3,127 new cases on Friday.

Soaring hospitalizations of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients are putting medical staffs in Louisiana under stress for a fourth time, as state officials plead for people to get the shots that can prevent the disease.

The highly contagious delta variant has become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Louisiana and around the country. Gov. John Bel Edwards planned to address the latest surge Friday.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s acting health minister says the country’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign is regaining momentum after being disrupted by a week of riots sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma. Acting Health Minister Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says at least 120 pharmacies, including 71 that were vaccination sites, were damaged and closed during the unrest in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.

She says more than 47,000 vaccine doses were destroyed when the sites were ransacked and the “violent nature of the protests unsettled the health care system as a whole.”

The government has said at least 337 people died during the riots this month.

South Africa reported 14,858 new infections and 433 deaths Friday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nation gave shots to more than 220,000 people per day this week and aims to increase the number to 300,000 jabs each weekday next week.

More than 6 million South Africans have received at least one shot and 1.6 million are fully vaccinated with two the Pfizer vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Vaccinations are open to those above age 35.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia and Montenegro have tightened rules against the new coronavirus along the Adriatic Sea coast amid a rise in infections and in effort to save the summer tourism season.

Starting next week, all gatherings in Croatia will be limited. Montenegro temporarily closed night clubs and discotheques.

Tourism is key for the economies in both countries, particularly after a bad season last summer. While vaccination has reached nearly 50% in of Croatia’s 4.2 million people and some 36% in Montenegro, a country of 620,000, officials say that’s far from enough.

The Adriatic Sea coastline of Croatia and Montenegro draws visitors from across Europe. Croatia is known for ancient towns along the coast and numerous islands.

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NEW YORK — A new poll shows that most Americans who haven’t been vaccinated against the coronavirus say they are unlikely to get the shots. About 16% say they probably will get the vaccine.

Most also doubt they would work against the aggressive delta variant, despite evidence they do. Those findings underscore the challenges facing public health officials as soaring infections in some states threaten to overwhelm hospitals.

The poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 35% of adults who have not yet received a vaccine say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not.

That means “that there will be more preventable cases, more preventable hospitalizations and more preventable deaths,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 3% of unvaccinated Americans say they definitely will get the shots, though another 16% say they probably will. Some 37% of those under age 45 say they haven’t and likely won’t get the shots. Those without college degrees compared to those who graduated say they aren’t and won’t be vaccinated, 30% to 18%.

Nationally, 56.4% of all Americans, including children, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC. Vaccinations are starting to increase in some lagging states where cases are rising — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada.

“What I learned from my patients is that when a loved one dies, that’s a tragedy,” says Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. “But when a loved one dies and you know it could have been prevented, that tragedy haunts you forever.”

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — U.S. regulators are weighing the final stamp of approval for certain COVID-19 vaccines. Governors in states hard hit by the pandemic hope the move will help persuade the many holdouts in their states to finally get the shot.

Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines approved for use in the U.S. were authorized for emergency use. The governors of Arkansas and Ohio have appealed in recent days for full approval as virus cases and hospitalizations skyrocket in their states. They say the move would help combat vaccine resistance and could also clear the way for more businesses to require their employees to be inoculated.

It’s a topic that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has confronted as he holds town halls throughout Arkansas, which leads the nation in new cases per capita but has one of the lowest vaccination rates. Only about 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

All three vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. went through a fast-track approval process — but that didn’t skip the normal massive testing required of any vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna have applied for full approval, and a Pfizer decision is expected soon.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization’s Europe director says the coronavirus delta variant first identified in India is now dominant across the European region.

WHO advised countries to take increased measures to monitor the virus, including increased access to free testing, strengthening contact tracing and providing incentives to isolate.

WHO Europe director Dr. Hans Kluge says despite increasing efforts to immunize people across the continent, millions remain unvaccinated and at risk of ending up in the hospital.

“We are far from out of the woods in terms of the pandemic ending,” says Klug, adding countries easing their coronavirus restrictions should be ramping up other public health measures.

The warning comes just days after Britain removed nearly all legal limits on COVID-19 interventions, allowing people to abandon their masks and gather in large numbers indoors.

Kluge says travel is “not risk-free,” but stopped short of recommending people cancel travel plans altogether. He advises travelers to “do it safely” by wearing a mask, washing their hands and keeping their distance.

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LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has recommended clearing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorized for people under 18.

In a decision on Friday, the EU drug regulator says research in more than 3,700 children ages 12 to 17 showed the Moderna vaccine — already approved for adults across Europe — produced a comparable antibody response.

Until now, the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has been the only option for children in North America and Europe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to extend the use of the Moderna vaccine for children under 18.

With global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world still is struggling to immunize adults, and agencies including the World Health Organization have urged rich countries to donate their doses to the developing world — where fewer than 2% of people have been vaccinated — rather than moving on to inoculate their younger, less vulnerable populations.

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TOKYO — Belated and beleaguered, the Tokyo Summer Olympics finally opened Friday night with cascading fireworks and made-for-TV choreography that unfolded in a near-empty stadium during the pandemic Games.

As their opening played out, devoid of the usual crowd energy, the Olympics convened amid simmering anger and disbelief in much of the host country. But organizers hope the excitement of the sports to follow will offset the widespread opposition.

Only a little over 20% of the population is fully vaccinated. And there have been near daily reports of positive virus cases within the so-called Olympic bubble that’s meant to separate the Olympic participants from the Japanese population.

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BEIJING — The Chinese city of Nanjing has reported 12 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 23 in an outbreak that has locked down at least 30,000 people.

The first nine cases were found at the airport in Nanjing on Tuesday. Authorities are conducting mass testing of the city’s population and have locked down 34 residential communities.

China has controlled the spread of the coronavirus through quick lockdowns of affected areas and mass testing to identify and isolate infected people.

It also is witnessing a spate of cases in Yunnan province near the border with Myanmar, which is facing a severe outbreak. Authorities reported 13 new cases in the latest 24-hour period, all people who had crossed the land border from Myanmar in the past month.

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LONDON — The British government has sought to ease food supply pressures in England by exempting more than 10,000 workers from quarantine rules that had led to staff shortages and empty shelves and fears of panic-buying.

However, it has come under criticism Friday for the way it has lifted coronavirus restrictions in England and for not doing more to help other crucial sectors, such as transport, the emergency services and energy industry.

Many critics say the National Health Service’s contact tracing app is a distraction from the fact the U.K. is in a third wave of the pandemic. It follows the spread of the more contagious delta variant and the recent lifting of lockdown restrictions.

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TOKYO — Jill Biden has held a virtual meet-and-greet with several U.S. athletes who will compete at the Tokyo Games.

The U.S. first lady is in Tokyo to support the athletes and attend the opening ceremony.

She spoke virtually with Eddy Alvarez, a baseball player and short track speed skater, and basketball player Sue Bird. Both will be flagbearers for the U.S. at the opening ceremony. She also spoke with Allison Schmitt, a four-time Olympic swimmer and mental health advocate.

Biden told the athletes that they’d given up a lot to be in postponed Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus and relied on support from family and friends. On Saturday, she’ll dedicate a room in the residence of the U.S. chief of mission to former U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye.

She will host a U.S.-vs.-Mexico softball watch party at the U.S. Embassy for staff and their families, and cheer U.S. athletes competing in several events before leaving Tokyo. She visited a coronavirus vaccination site in Alaska before heading to the Olympics.

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LISBON, Portugal — The head of Portugal’s vaccine rollout program says the country is experiencing steep shortfalls in expected deliveries of the Janssen COVID-19 jab.

Rear Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo said in testimony to a parliamentary committee Friday that Janssen promised 800,000 doses in July but provided only 260,000.

In August, only 200,000 Janssen doses will be delivered instead of the expected 600,000.

He said the shortfall was “bad news” for Portugal’s inoculation drive. He did not give an explanation for the Janssen reduction.

Authorities are looking for other suppliers to make up for the shortfall.

Gouveia e Melo said around 65% of Portugal’s target population has had a first jab and about half are fully vaccinated. He said he expected 70% to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 12.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has passed the milestone of 1 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year.

Pakistan reported another 11 deaths Friday and 1,425 new cases of infection, bringing the country’s tally to 1,000,034 people infected. The nation has confirmed 22,939 deaths.

Infections have been steadily increasing as the more contagious delta variant spreads, and authorities expect a new surge from public activities during the Eid al-Adha holiday this week.

About 30 nations exceed 1 million cases, and more than 190 million people have been infected worldwide, a number considered an undercount.

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Categories: National News