The Latest: WHO gives authorization to Sinovac vaccine

International News
Andrew Cooper

FILE – In this May 6, 2021, file photo, Andrew Cooper, founder and president of libertarian group LibertyWorks, arrives at Federal Court in Sydney. An Australian court on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, has rejected a challenge to the federal government’s draconian power to prevent most citizens from leaving the country so that they don’t bring COVID-19 home. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

The World Health Organization has issued an emergency use listing for the COVID-19 vaccine made by Sinovac in adults aged 18 and over, the second such authorization it has granted to a Chinese company.

In a statement Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said data submitted to its experts showed that two doses of the vaccine prevented people from getting symptoms of COVID-19 in about half of those who got the vaccine. WHO said there were few older adults enrolled in the research, so it could not estimate how effective the vaccine was in people over age 60.

“Nevertheless, WHO is not recommending an upper age limit for the vaccine,” the agency said, adding that data collected from Sinovac’s use in other countries “suggest the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in older persons.”

WHO’s authorization means the vaccine can be bought by donors and other U.N. agencies for use in poorer countries, including in the U.N.-backed initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines globally known as COVAX.

Last month, WHO gave the green light to the COVID-19 vaccine made by Sinopharm. It has also licensed vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca.

The COVAX effort has been slowed considerably after its biggest supplier in India said it would not be able to provide any more vaccines until the end of the year.

To date, there is no confirmed deal for Sinovac doses with COVAX.

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MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Peru raises COVID-19 death toll sharply, up to over 180,000 from previous count of nearly 70,000

— Son’s grief, guilt become tributehonoring COVID-19 victims

— Japan’s vaccine pushahead of Olympics looks to be too late

— Businesses close in Malaysia’s second lockdown as surge puts health care system on verge of collapse

— Follow more of 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:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — American pharmaceutical company Moderna says it has begun the process to win full U.S. regulatory approval for the use of its COVID-19 vaccine in adults.

Moderna announced Tuesday it has begun a “rolling submission” to the Food and Drug Administration of data from its studies of the two-dose vaccine.

Moderna’s vaccine already has been cleared for emergency use by the FDA and regulators in numerous other countries. So far, more than 124 million doses have been administered in the United States.

Large-scale studies of the shots continued after Moderna’s emergency authorization. The FDA will scrutinize the information to see if the vaccine meets stringent criteria for full licensure.

Moderna is the second COVID-19 vaccine maker to seek full approval, following Pfizer and German partner BioNTech.

Last week, Moderna also announced that its vaccine appears safe and effective in kids as young as 12. The company plans to seek emergency authorization for teen use this month.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan crossed a threshold in the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday with a lifting of certain restrictions at outdoor events and inside bars and restaurants.

Masks no longer are required outdoors, and capacity limits are extinguished at outdoor sports events and concerts.

Restaurants and bars can operate indoors at 50% capacity and can stay open past 11 p.m. There’s no limit on the number of people at one table. Full capacity returns on July 1.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the changes on May 20 as new coronavirus cases were slowing down and more Michigan residents were getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

There were only 445 new cases reported Saturday, the latest figures available because of the Memorial Day holiday.

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ROME — Italians may eat and drink indoors at bars and restaurants for the first time in months, and that includes the morning ritual of having an espresso or cappuccino at a local cafe.

Until Tuesday, businesses had to either offer outdoor seating, or serve coffee in takeaway cups, admonishing customers to step away from the bar before sipping or run afoul of virus restrictions.

Rome resident Paolo Leoni enjoyed an espresso at the Toraldo Cafe in the center of Rome. He said that “one coffee gives us the feeling of living serenely again.”

Cafe owner Alessandro Rappini says that seeing the place fill up again after four months “gives me a huge sense of satisfaction.”

Italy began rolling back pandemic restrictions in April as the number of new cases showed signs of steady decline. To date, nearly 35 million people in the country of 60 million residents have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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MADISON, Wisc. — Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are at their lowest recorded levels in Wisconsin, a 92% drop from the peak less than seven months ago.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association said that as of Monday, 186 people were reported as hospitalized for COVID-19 statewide. The previous low was 192 people on April 2, the first day that a dashboard tracking Wisconsin hospitalizations reported data. The high was 2,277 patients on Nov. 17, 2020.

The good news comes as mask mandates ended Tuesday in Milwaukee and in state buildings, including the Capitol. The mask order for Dane County, including the city of Madison, is set to expire on Wednesday.

Widespread vaccinations and fewer new confirmed cases led leaders in Milwaukee and Madison to stop requiring masks.

As of Monday, 48% of Wisconsin’s population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 42% were fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health Services.

As of Monday, 7,078 people had died in Wisconsin since the pandemic began and more than 610,000 people tested positive, according to the state health department.

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BERLIN — German authorities are investigating allegations of fraud involving the massive rollout of free coronavirus tests, which are being carried out now in converted cellphone stores, beauticians and art galleries across the country.

Germans have to present a negative test result in order to enter non-essential stores, visit restaurants or bars, or attend small-scale cultural events. The government pays for one free test per person each week, which has led to a proliferation of more than 15,000 businesses offering antigen tests that provide results within 20 minutes.

“There is the suspicion, a very well-founded suspicion after everything I’ve seen, that there’s also been fraud,” Jens Spahn, the country’s health minister, said Tuesday.

The issue has once again raised questions of who is accounting for the German government’s spending splurge in response to the pandemic.

Last year, numerous applicants seeking government support for businesses affected by the lockdown were found to have made fraudulent claims, leading to a tightening of rules and severe delays in payments as further checks were conducted.

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LONDON — London’s Heathrow Airport has reopened a terminal that was mothballed during the coronavirus pandemic to handle passengers now arriving from high-risk countries. Critics say the action should have been taken sooner.

Britain has barred travelers from a “red list” of 43 coronavirus hotspots including India, Brazil and Turkey. U.K. nationals and residents returning from those countries face a mandatory 10-day quarantine in a hotel. Other travelers coming from “amber list” countries like the United States can do their mandatory 10-day quarantine at home in the U.K.

Critics have complained that red list passengers have been using the same massive airport arrivals hall as travelers from other destinations, though in separate lines, since the hotel quarantines were introduced in February.

Starting Tuesday, red list arrivals will pass through the airport’s Terminal 3, which was closed in April 2020 as international air travel plummeted.

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CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian court has rejected a challenge to the federal government’s draconian power to prevent most citizens from leaving the country so they don’t bring the coronavirus home.

Most Australians have been stranded in their home nation for more than a year under a government emergency order made under the powerful Biosecurity Act. Australia is alone among developed democracies in preventing its citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country during the pandemic except in “exceptional circumstances.”

The libertarian group LibertyWorks argued the government dids not have the power to enforce the travel ban.

But the three judges ruled for the government Tuesday. They said Parliament knew the law’s impact would be harsh when it passed the Biosecurity Act in 2015.

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BEIJING — China’s southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou has imposed lockdowns on two neighborhoods after an additional 11 cases of COVID-19 were detected in the city.

The surrounding province of Guangdong has already required anyone wishing to travel to other parts of China produce a negative test for the virus taken within the previous 72 hours.

Guangzhou has 15 million people but it wasn’t immediately clear how many people were affected by the lockdowns announced on Tuesday.

More than 30 cases of local transmission have been detected in the city over recent days, making it the latest virus hotspot in a country that has mostly eliminated domestic infections through mask mandates, strict case tracing, widespread testing and strict lockdowns when cases are detected.

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This story has been corrected to say that the World Health Organization granted emergency use authorization, not emergence use.

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