The Latest: Spain PM says J&J vaccine benefits outweigh risk


MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says the benefits of taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are greater than the risks.

Sánchez was asked about U.S. move to pause the J&J vaccine during his presentation of Spain’s plans for the EU recovery funds.

The prime minister says he would have to inform himself of the situation, but “we have to all be aware that all the vaccines being administered to the Spanish population, and the European, as well as American populations, are safe.”

“They all count on all the guarantees they need, and the balance between benefit and risk is clearly on the side of taking the vaccine,” Sánchez says.

Spain is expecting to receive 300,000 doses of the J&J vaccine on Wednesday, the first delivery of the shots made by the Janssen subsidiary. The country had planned to prioritize people ages 70 and 79 to receive the single-dose vaccine.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— US suggests ‘pause’ on Johnson & Johnson shots over blood clot reports

— Muslims open Ramadan with communal prayers in socially distanced contrast to empty mosques of a year ago

— India reels from explosive virus surge, affecting world vaccine supply

— Emptied by the pandemic, Canary Islands hotel offers shelter to migrants in need

— Follow AP’s pandemic 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:

HOUSTON — Several large vaccination sites in Texas will temporarily stop offering Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine after federal officials recommended a pause in its administration.

Top county officials in Houston and Dallas say Pfizer or Moderna vaccines will be offered instead of Johnson & Johnson at their large vaccination sites.

In Dallas, officials indefinitely postponed the launch of a program to begin Tuesday that offered the J&J vaccine to homebound individuals and the elderly.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating clots in six women that occurred in the days after vaccination. The clots were observed along with reduced platelet counts — making the usual treatment for blood clots, the blood thinner heparin, potentially “dangerous.”

More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases. The FDA has launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts.

Previously, concern about the unusual blood clots centered on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet received authorization in the U.S.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese health experts are warning that the number of coronavirus cases is on the rise as the government mulls whether to continue easing a lockdown that began in mid-January.

The incidence rate per 100,000 people over 14 days has climbed to 71, up from 63 a week ago.

Health experts say within a month the incidence rate — a key pandemic metric — could reach 120, which is the red line when the government says it will stop easing lockdown limits.

The staggered emergence from lockdown is due to reach Phase Three next Monday, when Portugal hopes to reopen all schools, cinemas and shopping malls. That plan could be put on hold if cases keep rising.

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BERLIN — The German government says companies will need to offer all employees who aren’t working from home at least one coronavirus test each week.

The requirement approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday is part of the government’s efforts to drive down persistently high rates of infection in recent weeks.

The government also wants parliament to pass a bill that would shift more powers to set pandemic restrictions in regions with high numbers of cases from state to federal authorities.

Germany’s disease control agency reported 10,810 new confirmed cases in 24 hours and 294 more deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has registered more than 3 million confirmed cases and 78,746 virus-related deaths.

The country’s sluggish vaccine program picked up last week, with the start of shots in doctors’ offices. Last week, some 3.2 million doses were administered in Germany, compared with 1.9 million the previous week.

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LONDON — Britain says it has hit its target of giving at least one dose of vaccine to everyone over 50 and others in groups at highest risk from the coronavirus by mid-April.

The government says everyone in those groups has been offered a jab, and about 95% of eligible people have received a shot.

More than 32 million people, over 60% of adults, have had a first shot and almost 15% of people in the U.K. have had both doses.

On Tuesday the vaccination drive was expanded to people aged 45-49, the start of the second phase of the inoculation campaign.

Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths. But rapid vaccination, and a nationwide lockdown have sharply decreased infections and deaths.

Lockdown restrictions are now being lifted, with nonessential shops, hairdressers, gyms and pub and restaurant patios reopening in England on Monday.

Health authorities are also concerned about new variants that are more resistant to the vaccines. They are calling for everyone living in two boroughs in south London to get tested after 44 cases of a strain first identified in South Africa were confirmed there.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says 104,824 people were vaccinated in one day as Denmark Monday tested its system ahead of a June rollout where 400,000 will be vaccinated per day.

“The result is now being evaluated, so we are ready for continued effective rollout,” Heunicke wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Stephanie Lose, head of the Danish Regions, an interest organization for Denmark’s five regions running health care across the country of nearly 6 million, noted that there were some local problems to be solved, including access, parking, logistics and some minor IT issues. In addition, queues occurred in several places because many showed up too early.

Denmark inoculated people in 68 vaccine centers. The number of jabs was lowered again on Tuesday.

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GENEVA — The U.N. health agency is calling on countries to suspend the sale of live animals captured from the wild in food markets as an emergency measure, saying wild animals are a leading source of emerging infectious diseases like the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization issued new guidance on Tuesday saying that animals — particularly wild animals — “are the source of more than 70 percent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, many of which are caused by novel viruses.”

The coronavirus’s origins more than a year ago have been the source of intense speculation, much of it centered around the likelihood that it was carried by bats and passed to humans through an intermediary species sold as food or medicine in traditional Chinese wet markets. The pandemic first appeared in the city of Wuhan, China.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi appealed for people to adhere to social distancing rules after Islamabad reported one of its highest single-day totals of COVID-19 fatalities in recent months.

Alvi also said on Twitter he has recovered from his own case of COVID-19, but was still feeling weakness.

He urged people to continue adhering to social distancing rules after authorities said most people were still not wearing face masks at public place. Alvi’s appeal Tuesday came hours after Pakistan reported 118 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours, the highest in recent months.

Pakistan has largely relied on donated or imported Chinese vaccines, which are only being offered to health workers and older people.

One pharmaceutical company has imported 50,000 doses of the Russian vaccine, which is available in big cities.

Pakistan hopes it will receive 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through the UN-backed COVAX program by next month, when authorities plan to register all citizens for vaccination.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the COVID-19 pandemic led to “a spike” in gender-based violence last year.

And Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report circulated Monday that combatants continued to use sexual violence “as a cruel tactic of war, terror, torture and political repression” in a number of countries.

The report focuses on 18 countries where the U.N. said it has obtained verified information.

It lists 52 parties “credibly suspected” of responsibility “for patterns of rape or other forms of sexual violence” in conflicts on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council.

The majority of those on the U.N. blacklist are “non-state actors” — opposition, rebel or terrorist groups linked to the Islamic State or al-Qaida extremist groups. National military and police forces on the list, including Myanmar’s military and border guard, are barred from participating in U.N. peace operations until the adopt time-bound commitments to cease violations.

The “blacklist” also includes government forces of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan and Somali.

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CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government has decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to accelerate its immunization program.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Tuesday the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is similar to the AstraZeneca product, which Australia already contracted to buy.

Australia had planned to rely on Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca with the goal of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to all eligible adults among a population of 26 million by October. But the government announced last week that the Pfizer vaccine is now the preferred option for people under 50 because of a potential blood clotting risk from AstraZeneca.

Australia has reported two people in their 40s developed clots after receiving the vaccine.

Australia has doubled its Pfizer order to 40 million doses. Australia had acquired 3.7 doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines by Monday and had injected 1.2 million doses.

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TORONTO — All schools in Canada’s most populous province will be shut down and move to online learning because of a record number of coronavirus infections fueled by more contagious virus variants.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government is moving schools to online-only after the April break this week.

Schools in Canada’s largest city of Toronto were already shut since last Wednesday. Now it will be province-wide.

Ontario is now seeing more than 4,000 new infections a day in recent days and record intensive care numbers. March break was previously moved this week in April.

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BUCHAREST — Authorities in Romania’s capital say three COVID-19 patients died at a mobile intensive care unit after ventilators failed.

Five more patients from the same mobile ICU in Bucharest’s Victor Babes hospital were transferred to other hospitals to receive care.

An investigation has been opened as to why the ventilators failed.

In recent days, Romania has recorded its highest number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs since the pandemic began, which has put the Eastern European country’s strapped healthcare system under serious pressure.



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