The Latest: Over 1 million in Israel get booster vaccine

A soldier administers a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a woman, at the Assad Iben El Fourat school in Oued Ellil, outside Tunis, Sunday, Aug.15, 2021. Tunisia has launched its largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign as the country faces a surge of cases. Authorities aim to vaccinate over 1 million of people aged 40 and over in only one day, compared with 30,000 to 60,000 a day previously. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

JERUSALEM — Israel says that more than 1 million people over the age of 50 have received a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Israel began offering the boosters to its older population two weeks ago, becoming the first country in the world using a western vaccine to do so.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday that more than half of the target population has now received a booster shot. He called it a “great achievement” and urged those who have not received the booster to do so as soon as possible. “That is the only way we can protect our health and livelihoods,” he said.

Israel was one of the world’s leaders in vaccinating its population early this year, using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. But it has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks spread largely by the delta variant.

Many of the cases have been in people who were already immunized, raising concerns that the vaccine becomes less effective over time. U.S. and European health officials have not recommended booster shots, and the World Health Organization has said it would be better to provide vaccines to poorer countries that have not yet inoculated their people.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Many Bible Belt preachers silent on shots as COVID-19 surges

— Fans will not be allowed at the Paralympics starting next week in Japan, which has extended its coronavirus emergency

— Virus claims more young victims as deaths climb yet again

— US mulls COVID vaccine boosters for elderly as early as fall

— Amid a limited supply of vaccines, tensions arise in Africabetween those seeking first and second vaccine shots

— Public forums before local school boards and city councils are the latest source of misinformation about COVID-19

— 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:

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia will start administering a third, or booster, dose of vaccines this week to people who previously were vaccinated at least 6 months ago, after cases of infections have surged in recent days.

Authorities on Monday said that citizens will receive text messages with invitations for booster shots. Initially, heath authorities will contact people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, medical workers and those whose jobs require frequent travel.

Serbia, a Balkan nation of around 7 million people, has vaccinated over 50% of its population.

The country loosened anti-virus rules during the summer which has led to a rise in confirmed new cases and hospitalizations mostly from the highly contagious delta variant.

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DALLAS — Some Texas counties and school districts remained defiant Monday and kept in place mandates requiring students and others to wear facial coverings despite rulings a day earlier by the Texas Supreme Court halting mask mandates in two of the largest counties in the nation.

However, other school districts and communities rescinded their mask mandates following Sunday’s court ruling, creating confusion for Texas students returning to in person classes this week.

The order by the state’s highest court — which is entirely comprised of elected Republican justices — halts mask requirements that Democratic county leaders in Dallas and San Antonio put in place as new infections soar and students begin returning to school.

Dallas school officials said Monday — the first day back in classes — that masks were still required on district property and that visitors weren’t allowed in schools.

Students and parents also gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion in Austin to urge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to drop his opposition to public school mask mandates.

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NEW YORK — New York City will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday for anyone wanting to partake in much of public life including dining at an indoor restaurant, working out at a gym or strolling through a museum.

The list of public venues widened Monday, as Mayor Bill de Blasio moved forward with an unprecedented move by the country’s largest city to goad more people into getting vaccinated and control a pandemic that has wrought havoc on the economy and people’s day-to-day lives.

While the new requirement goes into effect Tuesday, enforcement won’t begin until Sept. 13 to give the public and employees more time to receive at least the required first shot.

De Blasio first announced the new initiative Aug. 3, but on Monday the mayor further clarified how the new rules would be rolled out — revealing that the list of establishments that would come under the vaccination mandate would be far wider than first thought.

Establishments that don’t comply could be fined.

As of Monday, the city reported that 5.2 million of the city’s 8.8 million residents have had at least one shot of a vaccine, with 4.7 million fully vaccinated.

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MADISON, Wis. — Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Catholic Church’s most outspoken conservatives and a vaccine skeptic, said he has COVID-19 and his staff said he is breathing through a ventilator.

Burke tweeted Aug. 10 that he had caught the virus, was resting comfortably and was receiving excellent medical care.

“Please pray for me as I begin my recovery,” the 73-year-old Burke said in the tweet. “Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.”

On Saturday, his staff tweeted that he had been hospitalized and was on a ventilator, but that doctors were encouraged with his progress.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s only Level I trauma center is setting up a second emergency field hospital in a parking garage to treat some of the sickest COVID-19 patients as the virus continues to ravage the state.

Samaritan’s Purse will set up the mobile intensive care unit with a team of medical staff in a garage near Children’s of Mississippi, the state’s only pediatric hospital. Since the start of the pandemic, the Christian relief charity has set up five other emergency hospitals in areas of the world hard hit by the virus, including New York City and Los Angeles County.

Mississippi, one of least vaccinated states in the country, has seen numbers of new COVID-19 cases double in the past two weeks, surpassing records for hospitalizations all previous surges of the virus since the start of the pandemic.

After facing a shortage of beds and staff needed to treat patients, the University of Mississippi Medical Center set up an emergency field hospital in a different parking garage last week, with the help of the federal government.

In the coming days, an additional tent will be set up where people who are positive for COVID-19 can receive monoclonal antibody treatment, Woodward said.

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AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency has started an accelerated review process to determine if a common arthritis drug might help people hospitalized with severe COVID-19, months after the drug was granted an emergency use authorization in the U.S.

In a statement Monday, the EU drug regulator said it was assessing an application to extend the use of tocilizumab for adults suffering from severe coronavirus in the hospital, who were already being treated with other steroids or required extra oxygen, including via a ventilator. Tocilizumab is an anti-inflammatory drug currently used to treat adults and children with severe arthritis.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the drug an emergency use authorization and the World Health Organization recommended its use last month for people who are critically ill with COVID-19. The European regulator said it expected to make a decision by mid-October on tocilizumab, based on data from four large studies. The drug was first licensed in the EU in 2009.

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TOKYO — Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency will continue through Sept. 12 rather than finishing at the end of this month as initially planned, the government decided Monday

With the virus continuing to spread in the country, the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa, and three other regions which began in July will be extended and expanded.

The measures were enforced throughout the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, which took place with no spectators from the general public at many events. With the latest extension, the emergency will remain in force during the Tokyo Paralympics, which open Aug. 24 and close on Sept. 5.

“The surge in infections is reaching alarming record highs,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said after meeting with other ministers about the move.

The emergency measures center on asking eateries and bars to close at 8 p.m. and not serve alcohol. They will be expanded to several more prefectures including Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, which are currently under a less severe cautionary “quasi-emergency.”

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s president on Monday removed the island nation’s health minister amid a surge of COVID-10 cases and deaths.

The cabinet reshuffle announced by the office of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Monday came as the health ministry is facing mounting criticism over it’s failure to contain COVID-19, which is spreading fast across the Indian Ocean island nation.

Pavithra Wanniarachchi was removed from the Health Minster portfolio and was appointed as Minister of Transport. Media Minister and government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella was appointed as the new health minister.

Sri Lanka is witnessing an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths over the last two weeks. Doctors have warned that hospitals and morgues are reaching their maximum capacities. The government has ruled out an immediate lockdown, despite repeated pleas from doctors, because of an ailing economy.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s president pledged to improve COVID-19 testing and treatment in a speech Monday marking the country’s independence and said the pandemic has changed Indonesian culture in ways that would be a foundation for advancement.

Wearing masks, not shaking hands and avoiding crowds of people were once taboo, while working from home, distance learning, online meetings and online court have become new habits “that we used to be hesitant to do,” President Joko Widodo said in the national address marking the country’s 76th anniversary of independence.

“Amid today’s disruptive world, the spirit to change, the spirit to make changes and the spirit to innovate have become the foundation to build an advanced Indonesia,” Widodo said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, the acceleration of innovation has become an integrated part of our everyday lives.”

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is allowing people who plan to travel to countries which have not approved China’s Sinovac vaccine, to get additional shots of the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter on Monday that the extra shots were being offered only to people who were vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine at the start of the inoculation campaign and want to travel to countries where the Chinese vaccine has not been approved.

Koca said people who were not planning to travel to those countries did not need to get an extra shot on top of their third, booster shots.

With schools set to reopen on Sept. 6, the government on Monday also began vaccinating teenagers aged 15 and above as well as children as young as 12 who suffer from chronic diseases. About 53% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated.

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BERLIN — Germany’s standing committee on vaccination, the Stiko, has given the go-ahead for all young people above 12 to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The country’s disease control agency said Monday the Stiko found that especially data from the United States, where almost 10 million adolescents have been vaccinated, show that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks for children and teenagers.

The Stiko said that vaccinations are now also recommended because the committee expects that children are at a higher risk of catching COVID-19 during the current fourth wave of infections with the dominant and quickly spreading delta variant in Germany.

In the past months, the Stiko had been reluctant to recommend the vaccination for all youngsters, saying it did not have enough data, and had recommended the shots only for children and teenagers with chronic illnesses. However, earlier this month the German government had pushed to offer COVID-19 shots for all children above the age of 12 and some states had already sent out letters inviting them to local vaccination centers.

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has recorded a record high number of deaths from COVID-19 for a second day in a row.

The official IRNA news agency said Monday that 655 patients died in the previous 24 hours, and health workers found some 41,194 new cases over the same period. On Sunday, Iran reported 620 deaths.

The report came as the country imposed a five-day lockdown starting Monday. It includes a travel ban on personal cars crossing between provinces.

The new surge has been fueled by the contagious delta variant. Iranian authorities say less than 40% of the population follows measures such as wearing face masks and social distancing. Iranian health officials have regularly warned that hospitals in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

This is the fifth wave of coronavirus infections as the country struggles to vaccinate its people. Some 4% of Iranians have been fully vaccinated.

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SYDNEY — Australia’s most populous state on Monday reported its worst day of the pandemic with 478 new COVID-19 infections and seven deaths.

The previous record daily tally in New South Wales was 466 new cases reported on Saturday.

Two of the dead had taken a single dose of a two-shot vaccine. The rest were unvaccinated, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

Only 26% of Australians aged 16 and older had been fully vaccinated by Saturday. Australia has one of the slowest vaccine rollouts among wealthy countries, which is making the delta variant outbreak particularly dangerous.

The first shipment of one million Pfizer doses that Australia bought from Poland arrived in Sydney overnight.

Residents aged 16-to-39 in Sydney’s worst-effected suburbs will be given 530,000 of the new doses, the government said. This

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WASHINGTON — The director of the National Institutes of Health says the U.S. could decide in the next couple weeks whether to offer coronavirus booster shots to Americans this fall.

Dr. Francis Collins tells “Fox News Sunday” that federal health officials are looking at the U.S. numbers “almost daily” but no decision has been made because cases so far still indicate that vaccinated people remain highly protected from COVID-19, including the delta variant.

He acknowledges, though, that there is concern that the effectiveness of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson regimen may wane “over months.” If so, Collins says that may necessitate a booster “maybe beginning first with health care providers, as well as people in nursing homes, and then gradually moving forward” with others, such as the elderly.

Collins says because the delta variant only started hitting hard in July, the “next couple of weeks” of case data will help the U.S. make a decision.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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