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US has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids’ shots

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US has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids’ shots

By TODD RICHMOND and KATHLEEN FOODY

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines available, U.S. health authorities said they’re confident there will be enough for both qualified older Americans seeking booster shots and the young children for whom initial vaccines are expected to be approved in the not-too-distant future.

The spike in demand — expected following last week’s federal recommendation on booster shots — would be the first significant jump in months. More than 70 million Americans remain unvaccinated despite the enticement of lottery prizes, free food or gifts and pleas from exhausted health care workers as the average number of deaths per day climbed to more than 1,900 in recent weeks.

Federal and state health authorities said current supply and steady production of more doses can easily accommodate those seeking boosters or initial vaccination, avoiding a repeat of the frustratingly slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across the country early this year.

“I hope that we have the level of interest in the booster … that we need more vaccines,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday. “That’s simply not where we are today. We have plenty of vaccines.”

Robust supply in the U.S enabled President Joe Biden this week to promise an additional 500 million of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world, doubling the United States’ global contribution. Aid groups and health organizations have pushed the U.S. and other countries to improve vaccine access in countries where even the most vulnerable people haven’t had a shot.

Among the challenges states face is not ordering too many doses and letting them go to waste. Several states with low vaccination rates, including Idaho and Kansas, have reported throwing away thousands of expired doses or are struggling to use vaccines nearing expiration this fall.

While most vaccines can stay on the shelf unopened for months, once a vial is opened the clock starts ticking. Vaccines are only usable for six to 12 hours, depending on the manufacturer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Moderna vaccines come in vials containing 11 to 15 doses. Pfizer vials contain up to six doses and Johnson & Johnson vials five doses.

“We are going to see more doses that go unused over time,” said Wisconsin’s health secretary, Karen Timberlake. “They come in multidose files. They don’t come in nice, tidy individual single-serving packages.”

State health officials said they have tried to request only what health care providers and pharmacies expect to need from the federal supply. Those numbers have dwindled since the vaccines became widely available in early spring.

But U.S. officials — holding out hope that some of the unvaccinated will change their minds — are trying to keep enough vaccines in stock so all Americans can get them.

That balancing act is tricky and can lead to consternation around the globe as the U.S. sits on unused vaccines while many countries in places such as Africa can’t get enough vaccines.

“Somebody sitting in a country with few resources to access vaccines, seeing people in the U.S. able to walk into a pharmacy and get that vaccine and choosing not to, I’m sure that’s causing heartache,” said Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents the public health agencies of all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, said officials anticipate that on-hand doses of COVID-19 vaccines and manufacturers’ ability to supply more will meet needs across the country.

“I think states have tried to plan as if everybody’s going to be offered a booster,” he said, suggesting they will be overprepared for the more narrow recommendations issued by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California, for example, estimated earlier this month that it would need to administer an extra 63 million doses by the end of 2022 — if initial shots for children under 12 were approved and boosters were open to everyone.

U.S. health officials late Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older — along with tens of millions of younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health conditions or their jobs.

California, with nearly 40 million residents, has the lowest transmission rate of any state and nearly 70% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. That leaves nearly 12 million people not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, said the state will rely largely on pharmacies and primary care providers to give boosters to seniors while some large counties and health care groups will use mass vaccination sites.

In Pennsylvania, more than 67% of residents older than 18 are fully vaccinated. Alison Beam, acting secretary of health, said health authorities now have “two missions”: Continuing to persuade people to get vaccinated and serving those eager to receive a booster or initial shots.

“Pennsylvania is going to be prepared,” Beam said. “And we’re going to have the right level of vaccine and vaccinators to be able to meet that demand.”

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Foody reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; and Patty Nieberg in Denver contributed.

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Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Deshaun Watson to the Broncos? One oddsmaker gives Denver a solid chance.

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Deshaun Watson to the Broncos? One oddsmaker gives Denver a solid chance.

Could the Broncos be getting a new quarterback again?

With a week left before the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline, one oddsmaker gives Denver a solid chance at landing embattled Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

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Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse

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Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the Mideast.

After publicly promising to crack down, Facebook acknowledged in internal documents obtained by The Associated Press that it was “under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity” that saw Filipina maids complaining on the social media site of being abused. Apple relented and Facebook and Instagram remained in the app store.

But Facebook’s crackdown seems to have had a limited effect. Even today, a quick search for “khadima,” or “maids” in Arabic, will bring up accounts featuring posed photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their images. That’s even as the Philippines government has a team of workers that do nothing but scour Facebook posts each day to try and protect desperate job seekers from criminal gangs and unscrupulous recruiters using the site.

While the Mideast remains a crucial source of work for women in Asia and Africa hoping to provide for their families back home, Facebook acknowledged some countries across the region have “especially egregious” human rights issues when it comes to laborers’ protection.

“In our investigation, domestic workers frequently complained to their recruitment agencies of being locked in their homes, starved, forced to extend their contracts indefinitely, unpaid, and repeatedly sold to other employers without their consent,” one Facebook document read. “In response, agencies commonly told them to be more agreeable.”

The report added: “We also found recruitment agencies dismissing more serious crimes, such as physical or sexual assault, rather than helping domestic workers.”

In a statement to the AP, Facebook said it took the problem seriously, despite the continued spread of ads exploiting foreign workers in the Mideast.

“We prohibit human exploitation in no uncertain terms,” Facebook said. “We’ve been combating human trafficking on our platform for many years and our goal remains to prevent anyone who seeks to exploit others from having a home on our platform.”

This story, along with others published Monday, is based on disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including the AP.

Taken as a whole, the trove of documents show that Facebook’s daunting size and user base around the world — a key factor in its rapid ascent and near trillion-dollar valuation — also proves to be its greatest weakness in trying to police illicit activity, such as the sale of drugs, and suspected human rights and labor abuses on its site.

Activists say Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, has both an obligation and likely the means to fully crack down on the abuses their services facilitate as it earns tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue.

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HelloFresh, EveryPlate and more now part of extended onion recall

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You may need to toss your onions as salmonella outbreak has been linked to the vegetable

If you haven’t already thrown out your onions, you should check your vegetables again.

The Food and Drug Administration has extended the onion recall, caused by a salmonella outbreak, to several more brands. The salmonella outbreak was first reported last week and initially only included fresh whole red, white or yellow onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource.

The recall now includes onions from HelloFresh, EveryPlate, Potandon Produce LLC and Keeler Family Farms.

HelloFresh said in a statement on Saturday they recommended disposing of onions received during the specified time period

“HelloFresh has been informed by one of its ingredient suppliers that it is conducting a voluntary recall of its onions due to the potential presence of salmonella bacteria,” the company said. “Please discard all onions received from July 7, 2021, through Sept. 8, 2021.”

The CDC is still working to determine if other onions and suppliers are linked to the outbreak.

Officials said recently both individuals and businesses should check onions and if it is unknown where they are from, throw them away. It is also recommended to wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with these onions.

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