US: The Latest: Fauci: Whatever vaccine is available, take it

Overnight Health Care: Biden visits Pfizer vaccine manufacturing plant in Michigan | Snow delays 6 million doses | Israeli study provides new evidence in one-dose debate

  Overnight Health Care: Biden visits Pfizer vaccine manufacturing plant in Michigan | Snow delays 6 million doses | Israeli study provides new evidence in one-dose debate Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care. At the end of a long week, it was nice to have an (at least somewhat) hopeful take on what this summer might look like from The Atlantic. Follow us on Twitter: @NateWeixel, @jessiehellmann and @PeterSullivan4. Today we have President Biden visiting a Pfizer factory, snow storms delaying a lot of vaccine doses, and new evidence that maybe just one shot is needed (though Dr. Fauci pushed back). Let'sFollow us on Twitter: @NateWeixel, @jessiehellmann and @PeterSullivan4.

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says if a coronavirus vaccine is available, regardless of which one, take it.

A quarantined traveller holds a sign up to the window of her room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, near London's Heathrow Airport, a Government-designated quarantine hotel being used for travellers to stay during a 10-day quarantine after returning to England from one of 33 © Provided by Associated Press A quarantined traveller holds a sign up to the window of her room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, near London's Heathrow Airport, a Government-designated quarantine hotel being used for travellers to stay during a 10-day quarantine after returning to England from one of 33 "red list" countries, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

The top U.S. infectious disease expert told NBC on Thursday a third vaccine becoming available “is nothing but good news” and would help control of the pandemic. U.S. regulators announced Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19. It’s expected to be approved soon by the FDA.

Meghan McCain Faces Backlash Following Complaints About COVID-19 Vaccine on 'The View'

  Meghan McCain Faces Backlash Following Complaints About COVID-19 Vaccine on 'The View' On "The View" on Monday, McCain complained about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the fact that she's unaware of when or how she'd be eligible to receive it.During a segment on Monday's show, McCain voiced frustrations over the rollout of the vaccine, particularly about what she characterized as a lack of clarity around when she herself will be able to receive it. At one point, she made reference to her position on the daytime talk show, which is being interpreted by many people as McCain feeling entitled to the vaccine because of her prominence.

A police officer receives a AstraZeneca vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centres. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP) © Provided by Associated Press A police officer receives a AstraZeneca vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centres. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)

Fauci warns people not to hold off on getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while waiting for the slightly more effective Pfizer or Moderna shots.

He says it’s a race “between the virus and getting vaccines into people” and “the longer one waits not getting vaccinated, the better chance the virus has to get a variant or a mutation.”

Fauci says public health officials are always concerned about virus variants and stressed following public health measures of wearing masks and social distancing.

Bloody Sunday plans, defining pandemics, teacher dilemmas: News from around our 50 states

  Bloody Sunday plans, defining pandemics, teacher dilemmas: News from around our 50 states How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every stateStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

The predominant coronavirus variant in the United States is from Britain. Fauci says the vaccines distributed in the U.S. “clearly can take care of that particular strain.”

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Pfizer is studying effects of third vaccine dose as booster

Medical oxygen scarce for coronavirus patients in Africa, Latin America

— Republicans solidly against $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill with decision looming on minimum wage increase

Flu virtually disappears in U.S. this season, with COVID-19 precautions likely preventing both illnesses

— EU summit to tackle why the 27-nation bloc's vaccine rollout has been so slow

Qantas expects to resume international flights in October, after Australian population is vaccinated

— Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

As FDA advisers recommend authorizing a 3rd vaccine, a Covid-19 surge hangs in the balance

  As FDA advisers recommend authorizing a 3rd vaccine, a Covid-19 surge hangs in the balance Even with a third vaccine nearing authorization and a rise in vaccination rates, officials say another devastating Covid-19 spike could be on the horizon depending on what the United States does next. © Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images In Denver, health care workers talk to patients at a tent outside Coors Field as the patients receive their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday. "The question that hangs in the balance right now is, will we have a fourth surge?" Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

NEW YORK — Pfizer announced it has begun studying a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, part of a strategy to guard against mutated versions of the coronavirus.

Health authorities say first-generation COVID-19 vaccines still protect against variants that are emerging in different parts of the world. But manufacturers are starting to prepare now in case a more vaccine-resistant mutation comes along.

Pfizer said it will offer a third dose to 144 volunteers, drawing from people who participated in the vaccine’s early-stage U.S. testing last year. It wants to determine if an additional booster shot given six to 12 months after the first two doses would rev up the immune system enough to ward off a mutated virus.

Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, also are tweaking their vaccine recipe. The companies are in discussions with U.S. and European regulators about a study to evaluate doses updated to better match variants such as the one first discovered in South Africa.

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BUDAPEST — Hungary’s government is maintaining pandemic restrictions until at least March 15 as rising COVID-19 cases and deaths are expected to worsen in coming weeks.

Transcript: Anthony Fauci on "Face the Nation"

  Transcript: Anthony Fauci on The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, that aired Sunday, February 28, 2021, on "Face the Nation."MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the president's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Good morning to you, Doctor.

Experts expect hospitalizations to increase drastically in the next two weeks as the pandemic’s “third wave” hits Hungary, the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said Thursday.

The restrictions in place since Nov. 11 - including an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, limiting restaurants to take-out and delivery service, and the closure of theatres, spas, hotels and other establishments - must be kept in place, he said.

The Hungarian government last week launched a survey asking for citizens’ opinions on lifting pandemic restrictions, and on the possibility of issuing immunity certificates to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

Such certificates will become available after March 1, Gulyas said, and the government will later decide what special rights will be afforded to certificate holders.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s Europe unit is reporting that about one in 10 people who contracted COVID-19 continue to show “persistent ill health” 12 weeks after infection.

Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of WHO Europe, says much about so-called “long COVID” remains unknown, but the “burden is real, and it is significant.”

In a policy brief released on Thursday, WHO Europe urged policymakers to do more to acknowledge and treat long COVID, which can bring severe fatigue, chest pain, heart inflammation, headache, forgetfulness, depression, loss of smell, recurrent fever, diarrhea and ringing in the ears.

J&J’s Covid Vaccine Could Protect Millions -- If People Take It

  J&J’s Covid Vaccine Could Protect Millions -- If People Take It Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine could protect millions more Americans from contracting the coronavirus. The key will be assuring people that the single-shot vaccine is worth taking, as its overall efficacy appears lower than the two-dose ones already on the market in the U.S.J&J’s shot, which U.S. regulators authorized Saturday, is more convenient than the vaccines cleared by the Food and Drug Administration last year. It requires one injection and can be stored for months in a refrigerator. State health officials and the Biden administration see it as a way to quickly host mass clinics as more transmissible virus variants continue to spread.

It said available data showed that about one in four people with COVID-19 show symptoms about a month after testing positive, while one in 10 experience symptoms after 12 weeks.

Kluge told reporters that the coronavirus is still spreading at “very high rates” across the 53-country European region, citing two variants of concern. However, he said fewer than 1 million new cases have been reported for a second straight week and transmission is slowing.

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PARIS — Family doctors in France have started giving COVID-19 vaccine shots vulnerable people between the ages of 50 and 64 as the country works to speed up its vaccination program against the coronavirus.

Vaccines administrated by doctors are reserved to those with pre-existing health condition that make them more susceptible to complications of COVID-19 if they become infected.

France has started its vaccination campaign on Dec. 27 in nursing homes. Since then, it has opened hundreds of vaccination centers across the country to provide vaccines to people over age 75 and health care workers.

Making vaccines available to the next category of recipients through family doctors starting Thursday marks the next step in the vaccination rollout. Doctors are allowed to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine at their practice offices or at patients' workplaces.

French authorities have reported over 85,000 deaths from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, one of the highest tolls in Europe.

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ALGIERS, Algeria — Algeria’s national public television network says the country has received a batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China to help fight the pandemic.

Biden to announce ‘historic partnership’: Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, officials say

  Biden to announce ‘historic partnership’: Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, officials say The administration brokered the arrangement amid concerns about Johnson & Johnson production delays The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that has not been announced, said they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had tried and failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

Images broadcast on TV showed a military jet carrying the Sinopharm vaccines had landed on Wednesday evening in the presence of Algerian Minister of Communication Ammar Belhimer and Chinese Ambassador Li Lianhe.

China has donated 200,000 vaccines to Algeria.

They come in addition to the North African nation’s purchase of 50,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Algerian has reported 2,967 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 112,000 confirmed cases.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finland plans to reintroduce a state of emergency that would allow the Nordic country to close restaurants for a three-week period starting March 8 as it fights the variant first discovered in Britain.

“I know you’re tired. So am I. But we have to be strong and now the situation is more difficult,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a press conference on Thursday. The variant “is more difficult to tackle, the old tools are not enough. Closed borders are not enough.”

The new measures require students over 13 to switch to distance learning and halts their leisure activities. A public meeting ban for more than six people is introduced and people are urged to avoid private gatherings. People in Finland would still have to work remotely and wear face masks.

A formal text will be presented next week before parliament.

In March, Finnish lawmakers adopted the emergency powers to tackle the coronavirus crisis. The country has seen 757 virus deaths in the pandemic

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AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam is restricting access to a large park after thousands of people gathered there Wednesday, many of them flouting social distancing rules.

With warm spring weather in the Netherlands expected to continue through much of Thursday, the side entrances to Amsterdam’s Vondelpark will be closed and City Hall says it is closely monitoring the main gates.

CDC director urges people to keep masking and distancing 'regardless of what states decide'

  CDC director urges people to keep masking and distancing 'regardless of what states decide' The director of the US Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said she hopes people will decide to individually "do the right thing" about distancing and wearing masks, even in states moving to eliminate restrictions against the CDC's recommendations."I think we at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions," Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.

The municipality says if it gets too busy in the lawns and ponds close to the city’s museums neighborhood then the park will be completely closed. The city says it “will not accept deliberate breaches of the rules with all the ensuing risks to public health.”

The Netherlands has been in a tough lockdown since mid-December. Public support for the measures has been eroding in recent weeks as numbers of infections have steadily declined.

Despite a rise in infections over the past week, the government on Tuesday announced that high school students will be allowed back to their classrooms starting next Monday for at least one day per week. Businesses such as hair and beauty salons also will reopen.

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BERLIN — A silver lining to coronavirus lockdown measures: with fewer motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians out on the streets, German authorities are reporting the lowest number of traffic fatalities since they started keeping statistics.

The Federal Statistical Office reported Thursday that in 2020, 2,724 people died due to traffic accidents in Germany, 10.6% fewer than in 2019 and the lowest number since the Wiesbaden-based agency started keeping such tallies more than 60 years ago.

“This is in particular due to the fact that due to the coronavirus pandemic, significantly fewer kilometers were driven on German roads in 2020 than the previous year,” the agency said.

The numbers were particularly low during the early part of the year and at the end of the year when Germany had instituted strict lockdown measures, and ticked upward in the summer when the measures were relaxed.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government is barring its citizens and residents from traveling to countries hit by highly contagious coronavirus variants and is tightening rules for face coverings.

Starting Thursday, people are required to wear better masks in places where large numbers gather, including stores, hospitals and public transportation. Cloth masks will no longer be good enough and medical-grade masks, safety respirators or two surgical masks will have to be used instead.

The changes come as one of the hardest-hit European Union countries faces a surge of a fast-spreading coronavirus variant originally found in Britain.

As of Friday, Czechs and foreign residents are not allowed to travel to 11 countries amid concerns over coronavirus variants first detected in South Africa and Brazil.

The Cabinet is also preparing new restrictions that Prime Minister Andrej Babis indicated will include limits on movement.

The country’s day-to-day increase in new confirmed cases reached 13,657 on Wednesday, about 2,700 more than a week ago. The nation of 10.7 million had almost 1.2 million cases with 19,835 deaths.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director is warning it would be a “fatal mistake” if the developed world takes the attitude of “we’ll vaccinate our people, and people in other parts of the world can take care of their own."

John Nkengasong, speaking Thursday to reporters, added that “it’s in no one’s interest we continue to be in this tense situation” and said more could have been done to address the global COVID-19 vaccine inequality.

But he celebrated that Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines via the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing doses to low-income countries. He said he hoped vaccinations would start Thursday in Ghana and that vaccine deliveries to other African countries will arrive in the coming days.

Africa over the past month has seen a decrease in the number of new cases after a strong resurgence in infections driven by a more infectious variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa. The continent surpassed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths this month.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will resume regular classes five days per week at all schools from March 1 amid a steady decrease in COVID-19 deaths and cases from coronavirus.

Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood made the announcement Thursday on Twitter.

Pakistan closed classrooms in November amid a surge in infections. Later schools were opened in phases, but regular classes had not been allowed.

Authorities said Wednesday that they will allow opening of parks, cinemas and indoor dining and wedding receptions beginning on March 15.

Pakistan has reported 12,772 deaths from the coronavirus. Pakistan is currently vaccinating health workers and elderly people using the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan will begin slightly easing restrictions on foreign visitors coming to the island beginning Monday.

The Central Epidemic Command Center says foreign nationals wishing to come to Taiwan for business can apply for special permission at the island’s representative offices abroad.

They will need to show negative coronavirus test results obtained three days before they travel and will be tested again after undergoing two weeks of quarantine. Travelers from a list of countries and regions classified as being of low or medium risk for COVID-19 can apply for shortened quarantine periods of between five and seven days.

Those include New Zealand, Macao, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Rule changes will also allow for foreigners in travel groups to change flights in Taiwan, and make it easier for Chinese citizens to visit for personal reasons and for Chinese students to return to Taiwanese institutions of higher education.

Taiwan instituted stricter measures on Jan. 1 to guard against variants of the coronavirus. The island of 23 million has recorded just 946 cases and nine deaths from COVID-19.

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska House Speaker Louise Stutes says a member of the Alaska House has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

She asked members and staff not to enter the Capitol on Thursday unless necessary to allow for contact tracing and cleaning to occur. Further details weren’t immediately available.

The announcement came the same day that Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office announced he had COVID-19. His office says the 59-year-old Republican is in quarantine at his home with mild symptoms.

At least nine U.S. state governors have tested positive for the coronavirus.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s success in battling the coronavirus has unleashed an unanticipated problem: skyrocketing house prices.

When the pandemic first hit, most experts predicted house prices would fall. Instead, prices have risen by more than 19% over the past year, putting them out of reach for many people wanting to buy their first home.

The government, which has come under increasing criticism for its response to the housing squeeze, on Thursday announced the first of what it says will be a series of moves to address the issue by ordering the nation’s central bank to consider the impact on house prices when making decisions.

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr said it welcomed the new directive, which is “in tune” with its own advice to the government.

New Zealand has managed to stamp out community spread of the virus, allowing most aspects of life to return to normal, and its economy has rebounded strongly as a result. GDP grew by a record 14% in the December quarter, erasing most of the virus-induced contraction from earlier last year. Unemployment remains at a relatively low 4.9%.

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County is reporting another 806 deaths from coronavirus during the winter surge, pushing California’s toll above 50,000, or about one-tenth of the U.S. total from the pandemic.

The county, which has a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, said Wednesday that it checked backlogged death records and found the deaths, most of which occurred between December and early this month.

Johns Hopkins University puts California’s overall COVID-19 death toll at 50,890. The grim figure comes just days after the U.S. recorded a half-million deaths.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden plans to distribute millions of face masks to Americans in communities hard-hit by the coronavirus.

It’s part of his effort to ensure equity in the government’s response to the pandemic. Biden is aiming to reach underserved communities and those bearing the brunt of the outbreak. His plan will distribute masks not through the mail, but through Federally Qualified Community Health Centers and the nation’s food bank and food pantry systems.

The White House announced it expects more than 25 million American-made cloth masks in both adult and kid sizes will be distributed.

Biden has asked everyone to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his term. He’s also required mask-wearing in federal buildings and on public transportation.

CDC director urges people to keep masking and distancing 'regardless of what states decide' .
The director of the US Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said she hopes people will decide to individually "do the right thing" about distancing and wearing masks, even in states moving to eliminate restrictions against the CDC's recommendations."I think we at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions," Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.

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