Canadian experts say AstraZeneca vaccine is safe

TORONTO, Canada — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says health experts in the country are sure the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and says the doses Canada receive are not from the same batch that are causing concerns in Europe.

Canada’s health regulator approved AstraZeneca last month and the Government recently received 500,000 doses from the Serum Institute of India.

Trudeau says Health Canada ensures the vaccines are safe before they enter the country. He says the best vaccine is the first one you can get.

People between 60 and 64 in Ontario and elsewhere have started to receive AstraZeneca doses.

Germany and France have joined some other European countries in suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine use out of precaution after reports of blood clots in some recipients.

Medicare boosts reimbursement for vaccine shots

WASHINGTON, DC, United States — The Biden Administration says Medicare will significantly boost what it pays for COVID-19 shots to help get more Americans vaccinated, particularly those in hard-to-reach areas.

White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt said yesterday that Medicare will now pay $40 per shot, an increase of nearly 75 per cent over the $23 the programme has been paying. For a vaccine requiring two shots, Medicare will pay $80.

As the Government’s flagship health insurance programme, Medicare covers more than 60 million people, including those 65 and older and younger individuals who are disabled.

The vaccine will continue to be free to patients, Slavitt said. But the payment increase will make it easier for more health care providers to get out into communities and give shots to those most in need. Hard-to-reach areas can include rural communities but also urban neighbourhoods in which a long bus ride is the only way to reach a vaccination centre.

Payment rates for Medicaid are set by states individually. But Slavitt said if states are interested in raising their Medicaid rates to match Medicare’s new payment, the federal government will see to it that states are held harmless financially. Medicaid covers low-income people.

69.9 million Americans vaccinated

WASHINGTON, DC, United States — More than 69.7 million people, or 21.0 per cent of the US population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some 37.4 million people, or 11.3 per cent of the population, have completed their vaccination.

… Cases declining

The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the US decreased over the past two weeks from 67,186 on February 28 to 53,670.4 on March 14, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

And the seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the US decreased over the past two weeks from 1,946.4 on February 28 to 1,354.3 on March 14, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The percentage of population that received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the CDC: New Mexico (29 per cent); Alaska (27.7 per cent); South Dakota (27.4 per cent). States with the lowest rates: Alabama (17.3 per cent); District of Columbia (17.1 per cent); Georgia (15.7 per cent).

Almost 90 per cent of New Yorkers complete vaccinations

NEW YORK, United States — Almost ninety per cent of people who got a first shot of a coronavirus vaccine got the second in the two-dose series, according to the first federal study to look at how many are people are completing the series.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released results of a study of 12.5 million people who received the first vaccine dose and for whom sufficient time elapsed to get the second. The study focused on the period from December 14 to February 14.

The researchers found 88 per cent completed the series, and another nine per cent did not but still had time to complete the series within the six weeks that CDC officials recommend as the maximum span between doses. About three per cent did not complete the series within six weeks, the study found.

“This is good news. We think these findings are really encouraging. The fact that most people are completing the two-dose series to be fully vaccinated shows the system’s working,” said Robin Toblin of the CDC, one of the study’s authors.

The study did not explore why some people did not complete the series.

Researchers found completion rates varied from state to state. It was as low as 75 per cent in Utah and as high as 96 per cent in West Virginia.

There may be different reasons for state differences, including winter weather that could have delayed vaccine deliveries and caused the cancellation of vaccination clinics, Toblin said.

Kansas revs up machinery for vaccine distribution

KANSAS, United States — Kansas’ top public health administrator told legislators yesterday that the state could distribute five times as many COVID-19 vaccine doses as it is receiving now from the federal Government.

Dr Lee Norman, head of the state health department, said the biggest issue facing Kansas in getting people inoculated is the vaccine supply. His comments came four days after President Joe Biden vowed to make all adult Americans eligible for vaccinations by May 1.

The GOP-controlled legislature has criticised what it sees as a slow distribution of vaccines by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s Administration.

The health department’s timetable anticipates that vaccinations won’t be available for all Kansas residents 16 and older until June. Norman said the state is receiving between 140,000 and 150,000 vaccine doses a week.

“The federal supply continues to be the largest barrier,” Norman told the Senate health committee during a briefing. “Probably, without even working overly hard at it — five times the amount, if it would come to us, we would be able to push it out.”

Germany steps up vaccination

BERLIN, Germany — Germany’s economy minister welcomed a deal yesterday that will see IDT Biologika temporarily fill and package the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine at a plant in the eastern town of Dessau.

Peter Altmaier said vaccine production in Germany would “increase the supply security and is a very important signal in the current phase of the pandemic.”

Germany’s vaccine campaign has lagged behind other countries, with about 6.5 million people having received a first dose compared with more than 24 million in Britain and almost 70 million in the United States.

The agreement between IDT and Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine was authorised for use in the EU last week, will use facilities previously reserved for a shot against dengue being developed by Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.

IDT said the coronavirus vaccine manufactured in Dessau will be used for worldwide distribution.

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