The Latest: General apologizes to states for fewer doses

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — An Army general in charge of COVID-19 vaccines
apologized Saturday for “miscommunication” with states on the
number of early doses delivered.

Gen. Gustave Perna’s remarks came a day after a second vaccine
was added in the fight against the coronavirus. Governors in more
than a dozen states says the federal government has told them next
week’s shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be less than
originally projected.

“I want to take personal responsibility for the
miscommunication,” he said. “I know that’s not done much
these days. But I am responsible. … This is a herculean effort
and we are not perfect.”

Perna says the government now is on track to get approximately
20 million doses to states by the first week of January, a
combination of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and the
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. He says 2.9 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses
have been delivered so far.

The coronavirus has killed more than 313,000 people in the U.S.,
the highest death toll in the world.

—-

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— AP: States spent over $7B competing for early virus
supplies

— Britain orders shops to close, nixes holiday mixing in
London

— US clears Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, 2nd shot in
arsenal

— The World Health Agency was warned that pulling report on
Italy’s handling of its coronavirus outbreak could damage its
reputation and cost lives, but the report was yanked anyway

___

Follow AP’s coverage at
https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and
https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Christmas
gatherings can’t go ahead and non-essential shops must close in
London and much of southern England.

Johnson announced the capital and other areas in southern
England currently under Tier 3 will move to a stricter Tier 4 that
requires non-essential shops, hairdressers and indoor leisure
venues to close after the end of business hours Saturday.

Johnson says a planned five-day easing of socializing rules
allowing up to three households to meet in “Christmas bubbles”
will be canceled for Tier 4 areas. No mixing of households will be
allowed except under limited conditions outside in public
places.

For the rest of England, people can meet in Christmas bubbles
for just one day instead of Dec. 23-27.

U.K. officials reported another 28,507 confirmed cases on Friday
and 489 deaths within 28 days of testing positive for the
virus.

The U.K. has reported 1.9 million coronavirus cases. It has
Europe’s second-highest confirmed COVID-19 death toll at 66,600
and sixth-highest overall.

___

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An Associated Press analysis shows
states spent more than $7 billion this spring buying personal
protective equipment such as masks, gloves, gowns and
ventilators.

California spent the most during the pandemic’s initial
months, at least $1.5 billion in the AP’s data, followed by
Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington. New York also spent
several hundred million dollars on PPE and ventilators through
November.

The data was obtained from states through open-records requests.
State governments were scrambling for supplies at the onset of the
coronavirus pandemic. Some states paid as much as $11 for
individual N95 masks, which previously cost around 50 cents before
the pandemic.

Supplies often went to the highest bidder, even if they’d
already been promised to someone else. States set up their own
fraud tests, rejecting masks that failed to meet safety
specifications or lacked medical labeling.

___

BERLIN — Switzerland has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from
Pfizer and German pharmaceutical company BioNTech.

The country’s health agency says the vaccine had been approved
for the small Alpine country after a careful examination by expert
teams. The agency did not say when vaccinations in Switzerland
would begin.

The approval comes shortly after Britain, Canada, the United
States and other countries allowed the use of the vaccine in their
respective countries.

The director of Swissmedic said “Thanks to the rolling process
and our flexible teams we could quickly decide and fully
accommodate the three most important requirements security,
efficacy and quality.”

Raimund Bruhin added that, “The safety of the patients is a
required condition especially regarding the approval of
vaccines.”

___

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
have agreed to a $465 million pandemic spending plan, including
relief payments to businesses and workers struggling to stay afloat
because of the coronavirus and government restrictions to curb its
spread.

The legislation received overwhelming Senate support late Friday
and is expected to win House passage on Monday before legislators
adjourn for the year. Nearly half of the funding would be used to
continue, through March, a maximum 26 weeks of unemployment
benefits in a year instead of 20 weeks.

The bill would provide $45 million in assistance to employees
who have been laid off or seen their hours cut due to restrictions
under a state health department order that has prohibited indoor
restaurant dining and closed entertainment venues. A worker could
get up to $1,650.

Small businesses affected by the recent orders would receive $55
million in grants — up to $20,000 if they had to close, $15,000
if they partially closed. Certain concert and other
live-entertainment sites could qualify for $40,000 as part of a
separate $3.5 million grant program.

___

BOSTON — Massachusetts expects to receive 20% fewer doses of
the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this year after the federal
government reduced its allotment, state officials say.

The state joins more than a dozen others that have been told
their vaccine shipments will be smaller than planned in coming
weeks. Instead of receiving 180,000, Massachusetts now expects to
get 145,000.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he hasn’t received an
explanation for the cutback.

“We’re certainly frustrated,” Baker said at a COVID-19
briefing on Friday. “We’re working to get clarity on what this
means, what happened and how that bump will be dealt with along the
way.”

Baker said he expects to get more answers during a call with
federal officials next week. Despite the reduced allotment, Baker
said he expects the state to have “more than enough” doses in
the first months of 2021.

___

NEWARK — New Jersey will start to vaccinate its nursing homes
a week later than other states because the state missed a deadline
by a day with Operation Warp Speed, the state’s top heath
official said Friday.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the “sheer volume”
of information required for over 650 facilities led the state to
miss a Dec. 7 deadline. That means New Jersey won’t begin
vaccinations at its long-term care centers until Dec. 28, she
said.

New Jersey’s COVID-19 outbreak has ravaged nursing homes, with
7,430 deaths, including residents and staff. That’s about 46% of
the overall death toll in the state.

___

ISLAMABAD — Health authorities in Pakistan reported 87 new
deaths and 3,297 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday amid partial or
complete lockdowns in many neighbourhoods.

With new deaths, the country’s tally reached 9,250. The
government says its coronavirus vaccination program will likely
begin by March and frontline health workers and people who are
above 60 years will get priority for the free shots.

The national body for controlling the virus urged people to keep
social distancing and wearing masks.

___

BEIJING — China says it will soon begin coronavirus
inoculations for workers in health care, transport and border
control.

The vice minister of the National Health Commission says the
government is prioritizing those most at risk. Workers in logistics
and in markets selling fresh meat and seafood would also be placed
higher on the list of those receiving vaccines, along with the
elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

Vaccines produced by Chinese companies are now pending approval
in Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil, as manufacturers continue testing
the vaccines in more than a dozen countries including Russia, Egypt
and Mexico.

The United Arab Emirates last week announced the vaccine was 86%
effective in the first public release of such information.

Even before final market approval, more than a million people
have received vaccine shots in a program critics say has not been
transparent about safety, efficacy or scientific merit.

___

NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus cases have crossed 10
million with new infections dipping to their lowest levels in three
months, as the country prepares for a massive COVID-19 vaccination
in the new year.

Additional cases in the past 24 hours dropped to 25,152 from a
peak of nearly 100,000 in mid-September. The epidemic has infected
nearly 1% of India’s more than 1.3 billion people, second to the
worst-hit United States.

A government health expert says India is keeping its fingers
crossed as the cases tend to increase in winter months.

India is home to some of the world’s biggest vaccine-makers
and there are five vaccine candidates under different phases of
trial in the country. India aims to provide vaccines to 250 million
people by July 2021.

___

SEOUL, South Korea — Long lines are snaking from coronavirus
testing sites in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Saturday as
the country reports 1,053 more confirmed cases, the fourth straight
day over 1,000.

Thousands are taking advantage of free tests being offered
temporarily in the capital area. The government is struggling to
decide whether to increase social distancing to maximum levels,
which officials fear would further shock the economy.

The new cases brought the national caseload to 48,570. Nearly
7,000 of those cases have been added over the past week.

Fourteen COVID-19 patients died in the past 24 hours to bring
the death toll to 659. There are concerns fatalities will continue
to rise because of a shortage of intensive care beds in the Seoul
area, which is being hit hardest by the virus.

___

LOS ANGELES — Doctors in California say increasingly desperate
hospitals are being crushed by soaring coronavirus infections.

One Los Angeles emergency room doctor is predicting that
rationing of care is imminent.

Hospitals are on the brink of filling up and many emergency
rooms already have been using outdoor tents to make more space.
Hospitals in both Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley
have no more ICU beds available for coronavirus patients.

The state’s death toll, meanwhile, topped 22,000 Friday. The
most populous state reported more than 41,000 new coronavirus
infections and 300 more deaths related to COVID-19, bring the toll
for the pandemic to 22,160.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina is preparing to vaccinate
workers in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities next
week.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Friday
that it plans to receive 61,425 doses of Pfizer’s newly approved
vaccine from the federal government next week.

If the Food and Drug Administration follows a key panel’s
recommendation to approve Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for
emergency use, North Carolina will get 175,900 doses of it. The
state health department said about 96,000 of its allotment from
Moderna will go to long-term care facilities.

___

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Alaska officials say a second health care
worker in the state has experienced a severe reaction after
receiving the coronavirus vaccine.

In the latest, a worker identified only as a female clinician
began experiencing probable anaphylactic symptoms about 10 minutes
after receiving the shot Thursday in Fairbanks. Symptoms included
tongue swelling, hoarse voice and difficulty breathing.

She received two doses of epinephrine at the emergency
department at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and was discharged about
six hours later.

The hospital’s chief medial officer says that “allergic
reactions, though uncommon, can occur with injections of
medications and vaccines.”

A statement from the unidentified woman encourages everyone to
get the vaccine. She says she has seen firsthand the suffering and
death of COVID-19 patients, and her adverse reaction pales in
comparison to that.

___

WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services Alex Azar continues to
test negative for COVID-19 after his wife contracted the
coronavirus.

Azar told HHS staffers in an email Thursday that his wife
Jennifer has mild symptoms, but overall is doing well and
self-isolating at home. He and their children have tested
negative.

Azar continues to work, after consulting with Dr. Robert
Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well
as his own physician.

“I will be carrying out the duties of my office while strictly
adhering to CDC guidelines for essential workers, continuing to
practice social distancing, wearing a mask, and monitoring for any
symptoms,” Azar said. He’ll be retested every day until the
incubation period for the virus is over.

Jennifer Azar began isolating after experiencing her first
symptoms. An initial instant COVID test was negative. But a more
precise PCR test came back positive on Thursday.

___

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is expressing little
concern over a smaller-than-expected second shipment of a
coronavirus vaccine for the state.

Kelly said Friday that the reduction in the state’s second
shipment of a vaccine made by Pfizer is “more of a smoothing
process” by the federal government to make sure health care
workers who received the first of two doses this week can get the
second in January. At least a dozen states have reported they will
receive fewer doses next week than anticipated.

The governor’s comments came as the state Department of Health
and Environment reported that Kansas has surpassed 200,000
confirmed and probable coronavirus cases for the pandemic, or about
one for every 15 of its 2.9 million residents. The state also
reported total 2,341 COVID-19 deaths, adding 88 to the tally since
Wednesday.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
The Latest: General apologizes to states for fewer
doses