World In big shift, Germany to give AstraZeneca shots to over 65s
The Latest: Hong Kong starts virus jabs at community centers
HONG KONG — Hong Kong has begun administering its first COVID-19 vaccines to the public, kicking off its mass inoculation targeting all 7.5 million residents. People age 60 and older and health care workers are among some 2.4 million people prioritized to receive vaccines at community centers and outpatient clinics across Hong Kong. The government said Friday registrations for the first two weeks of the program are full. Participants so far will be receiving the vaccine by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac.
BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s independent vaccine committee has formally approved giving the AstraZeneca shot to people age 65 and over, and recommended waiting 12 weeks between giving the first and second doses, the health minister said Thursday.
The decision is “good news for older people who are waiting for a vaccination," said the minister, Jens Spahn. "They will get vaccinated faster.”
Once a darling of the pandemic, Germany now has more than 1 million vaccines unused in storage
"We are working quite hard on this and trying to convince people to accept the vaccine and really to rebuild the trust in the vaccine," one official said.Once hailed for its coronavirus response, Germany has administered just 15 percent of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine it has received, the country's health ministry said in a briefing Wednesday.
The vaccine made by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca is one of three authorized for use in the 27-nation European Union. Yet several countries, including Germany, initially restricted it to people under 65, or in some cases under 55, citing a lack of data on its effectiveness in older people.
But the publication of new data on its effectiveness and pressure to speed up the EU's slow vaccine rollout has prompted authorities across the bloc to revise their stances.
The independent committee, known by its German acronym StiKo, advised waiting 12 weeks between administering the first and second AstraZeneca shots, as studies show this increases the vaccine's effectiveness, Spahn said. Britain, which has had a notably successful vaccination rollout, has been going with the 12-week spacing for vaccine shots since last year.
Tactical shift: Europe seeks vaccine 'overdrive' to catch up
BERLIN (AP) — Slow off the blocks in the race to immunize its citizens against COVID-19, Germany faces an unfamiliar problem: a glut of vaccines and not enough arms to inject them into. Like other countries in the European Union, its national vaccine campaign lags far behind that of Israel, Britain and the United States. Now there are growing calls in this country of 83 million to ditch the rulebook, or at least rewrite it a bit. Germans watchedLike other countries in the European Union, its national vaccine campaign lags far behind that of Israel, Britain and the United States. Now there are growing calls in this country of 83 million to ditch the rulebook, or at least rewrite it a bit.
Spahn said both recommendations will be swiftly incorporated in Germany's vaccine rules, whichwould be overhauled to get vaccine shots to more people sooner.
Restrictive rules and a rush of deliveries have left Germany sitting on a stockpile of more than 2 million AstraZeneca doses even as many who want the vaccine can't get the shots.
Data published this week from England’s mass vaccination program showed that both the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were around 60% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in people over 70 after just a single dose. The analysis released by Public Health England, which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, also showed that both vaccines were about 80% effective in preventing hospitalizations among people over 80.
France, Belgium and Italy already loosened their age restrictions for the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this week as European nations scramble to confront a looming third spike in COVID-19 cases. The World Health Organization's chief for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, said Thursday that new infections rose 9% across Europe in the past week, halting six weeks of declines.
Covid-19: Italy blocks the export of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia
© Supplied by Le Parisien Le Parisien This is a major first for the EU. Italy has blocked the export to Australia of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine produced on European soil, the Italian government said Thursday. Rome communicated its decision on February 26 to the European Commission, which did not object. The Foreign Office said in a statement that the refusal to export involved 250,700 doses from the Swedish-British laboratory.
Germany is facing a third spike in infections, fueled by the more contagious variant first detected in Britain, Bavarian Gov. Markus Soeder said Thursday. Five of the counties with the highest rates of infection are in the southern German state, close to the border with the Czech Republic, which currently hasin Europe.
Germany's disease control agency reported 11,912 newly confirmed infections in the past day, taking the overall total to 2.47 million. The number of COVID-related deaths rose by 359 to 71,240, the Robert Koch Institute said.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany's 16 states agreed tountil March 28, while laying down a roadmap for relaxing rules in areas with low numbers of infections.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at:
U.S. Passes 100 Million Doses; California Eases: Virus Update .
The U.S. passed the milestone of administering more than 100 million Covid-19 shots. California said 13 counties can ease restrictions, including opening restaurants and movie theaters to 25% capacity. Michigan will begin vaccinating all people 16 years and older starting April 5. © Bloomberg A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to a farmworker at a vaccination clinic organized by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department at Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, California, U.S., on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Farmworkers have been one of the hardest hit communities since the start of the pandemic.