NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson has started testing its COVID-19 vaccine on adolescents, beginning with those ages 16 and 17.
The teens will be added to an ongoing study of the vaccine in adults that began last September, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based drugmaker said Friday. After initial data from the older teens is reviewed, the trial will expand to add adolescents ages 12 to 15.
J&J says the first teens are being enrolled in the United Kingdom and Spain. Teens in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands will be added, followed by teens in Brazil and Argentina.
The study is testing the safety and efficacy of both one-dose and two-dose regimens of the vaccine, with the two-dose regimens being studied at intervals of one, two and three months after the first shot.
Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for the company’s Janssen pharmaceuticals unit, says it also expects to initiate studies in pregnant women and children.
A total of 100 million J&J doses are pledged for the U.S. by late May or June.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— CDC: Those fully vaccinated can travel again in U.S.
— UK bans travel from 4 more nations over virus; 39 in all
— Despite Italy lockdown, cruise ship ferries partying passengers on Mediterranean
— Jerusalem religious sites welcome limited numbers of Good Friday faithful
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government says it is temporarily halting AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccinations for people under age 60.
The move Friday follows reports of very small number of people suffering unusual blood clots after receiving the shot.
The Dutch decision comes three days after authorities in Germany also stopped using the AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the under-60s. Germany cited new concerns over unusual blood clots in a tiny number of those who received the shots.
A Dutch organization that monitors vaccine side effects says it has received five reports of blood clots with low blood plate counts following AstraZeneca vaccinations. All the cases occurred between seven and 10 days after the vaccinations and all involved women ages 25 to 65 years.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, along with the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac company, amid a sharp increase in infections.
Hospitals across the country started delivering Pfizer shots on Friday as cases hit record highs. This week, the government re-imposed weekend lockdowns and announced restrictions during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan to deal with the surge.
The country of 84 million rolled out its vaccination program in mid-January with shots developed by Sinovac and has administered 16.5 million shots. More than 7 million people have received two doses of the vaccine.
Turkey has received 2.8 million doses of the Pfizer shot and expects to receive 4.5 million in total before the end of the month, the health minister says.
KYIV, Ukraine — Coronavirus infections and deaths in Ukraine reached new records on Friday, with health authorities reporting 19,893 cases and 433 confirmed deaths.
Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said this week the British variant of the virus has spread across the country, and the South African variant has been detected in two regions.
Ukraine began vaccinations in late February after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, reluctance to take the shots has been strong despite the influx of new infections and the strain on the health care system.
Ukraine, a nation of 41 million, has reported a total of 1.7 million coronavirus cases and 33,679 confirmed deaths.
NEW YORK — Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can enjoy again.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance Friday to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S., without getting a COVID-19 test or going into quarantine.
The agency previously cautioned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people. The agency says vaccinated people should wear a mask and socially distance when traveling.
For international travel, vaccinated people should still get a COVID-19 test before flying to the U.S. and be tested soon after returning. Unvaccinated people are advised to avoid unnecessary travel.
According to the CDC, some 56 million people, or 17% of the U.S. population, are fully vaccinated. Nearly 100 million people in the U.S., or about 30% of the population, have received at least one dose.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Department of Health has announced that 1 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It says roughly 22% of the state’s population has received at least one dose. The department says more than half of Tennesseans over age 60 have received a first dose and nearly two-thirds of those over 70 have received their initial dose.
The agency noted that vaccinations among Tennessee’s Black and Hispanic populations have also increased. Black people make up about 16% of the state’s nearly 7 million residents.
Tennessee is expanding COVID-19 eligibility to people 16 and older on Monday.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The number of daily coronavirus cases in Bosnia has surpassed 2,000, its highest total during the pandemic.
Authorities say 2,154 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 88 people have died in the country of 3.3 million.
Bosnia has some of the highest death rates in the Balkans. The health authorities have urged Bosnia’s Catholics to celebrate the Easter holidays within their closest family circle as the region faces an ongoing surge.
In neighboring Croatia, authorities say they may reactivate a make-shift hospital in a sports hall in the capital of Zagreb if hospitalizations continue to rise. The country of 4.2 million people on Friday reported 2,362 new cases and 29 confirmed deaths.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois public health officials are reporting 3,526 confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest one-day case tally since Feb. 5.
The numbers released Thursday included 25 new deaths.
The statewide positivity rate for cases was 3.5%, compared with 2.7% the week before. Public health officials say more than 7.5 million vaccine doses have been delivered to providers in Illinois. More than 5.9 million vaccinations have been administered.
The Department of Public Health has reported 1.24 million coronavirus cases and confirmed 21,326 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
MOSCOW — Russia had a six-week coronavirus shutdown last spring, but was never fully locked down again after that, easing some challenges for its economy, industries and enterprises.
But Russia also saw its mortality rates rise. When virus infections surged again in the fall, the government resisted imposing restrictions that would have shut many businesses.
Russia emerged from 2020 with an economy that overall has shrunk much less than in many Western countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Russia’s gross domestic product fell by just 3.6%. That’s a little more than the global average of 3.4%.
Still, it was Russia’s biggest plunge since 2009. In recent years, its GDP grew by about 1% to 2% per year.
Russia has reported 4.5 million coronavirus cases and nearly 98,000 deaths. The U.S. leads the world with 30.5 million cases and more than 553,000 deaths.
BEIRUT — In Lebanon, Christians marked Good Friday with subdued masses in near empty churches and heavy rain as they geared up for a second Easter in a row under strict lockdown.
The government is imposing a three-day curfew starting Saturday until Tuesday, to discourage family get-togethers over the Easter holiday.
Churches can open at up to 30% capacity during the Easter weekend lockdown, with residents needing permits to visit them, similar to trips to the supermarkets and pharmacies.
Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East — about a third of its 5 million people, with Maronite Catholics the largest sect.
The traditional Easter sweet delicacies cookies have become a luxury few can afford this year.
“This is the first feast were poverty is on the rise and people are not even talking about the feast,” says Majida Al Asaily, owner of a sweets shop in Beirut. “We haven’t witnessed anything like this year, despite the war and other difficulties that we had faced before.”
ABOARD THE MSC GRANDIOSA — Italy may be in a strict coronavirus lockdown this Easter, with travel restricted between regions and new quarantines imposed.
But a few miles offshore, guests aboard the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship are shimmying to Latin music on deck and sipping cocktails by the pool.
In one of the anomalies of lockdowns that have shuttered hotels and resorts around the world, the Grandiosa has been plying the Mediterranean Sea most of the winter with seven-night cruises, a lonely flag-bearer for the global cruise industry.
The Grandiosa has tried to chart a course through the pandemic with strict anti-virus protocols approved by Italian authorities.
The United States could be among the last cruise ship markets to reopen, possibly not until fall and not until 2022 in Alaska.
ROME — Police in Italy have seized computers and other devices allegedly used by four Italians to send death threats and offensive emails to the country’s health minister to protest his firm stance on coronavirus lockdowns.
The Carabinieri health police say emails were sent between October and January from foreign computer servers and contained violent threats of retaliation against Health Minister Roberto Speranza and his family, “including explicit death threats.”
The four Italians, who are from four different Italian cities and range in age from 35 to 55, were placed under investigation for making “aggravated threats,” according to a Carabinieri statement.
Speranza has been part of the Italian government’s “rigorist” camp advocating for tough restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. He has enjoyed high popularity marks in national polling throughout the pandemic. He was one of the handful of Cabinet ministers who retained their jobs after Mario Draghi became premier in February.
LONDON — The British government is adding four more countries — Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines — to its travel ban list amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus.
The Department for Transport said the latest restrictions will take effect in England from April 9.
Under the terms of the travel bans, international visitors who have departed from or traveled through through the countries in the preceding 10 days will be refused entry into England.
British and Irish nationals, and those who have residence rights in the U.K., can enter but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days, at their own expense.
When the four countries are added, there will be a total of 39 nations on the government’s so-called “red list.” They include Brazil and South Africa, where two of the variants of the virus have been identified.
The other nations of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have similar lists to those that apply in England.
MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos marked Good Friday, one of the most solemn holidays in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, with deserted streets and churches following a strict lockdown to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
Major highways and roads were eerily quiet after religious gatherings were prohibited in metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces. The government placed the bustling region of more than 25 million people back under lockdown this week as it scrambled to contain an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.
Police-enforced curfews in the capital region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal were expanded to 11 hours starting at 6 p.m.
The Philippines has imposed some of the world’s longest police- and military-enforced coronavirus quarantines and lockdowns. It started to reopen the battered economy and allowed non-essential businesses to resume, including shopping malls, video game arcades and beauty shops, to ease unemployment and hunger. But infections surged back alarmingly last month.
President Rodrigo Duterte re-imposed a lockdown in the country’s most populous region this week, allowing only workers in essential businesses, government security and health personnel and residents on urgent errands to leave home.
MADRID — Spain wants to speed up coronavirus vaccination in April with the delivery of increasing numbers of doses.
Over 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses are being distributed to the country’s regions on Friday, while health officials expect an additional batch of 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vacccine on Monday.
The shipments are arriving as infections are stubbornly rising once again, leading to fears of another major resurgence. Spain’s 14-day cumulative cases per 100,000 people, a key metric of the pandemic, has creeped up over 150, above the level considered “high risk.”
With the new AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech shipments, Spain will be receiving in less than a week the equivalent of one-fifth of the doses delivered so far. Ever since the vaccine rollout began in late December, the country has been supplied nearly 10 million of the close to 70 million it is due under the European Union’s vaccine purchase framework.
That has meant that 2.8 million people have been fully vaccinated and an additional 2.7 million have received their first dose, although the slow rollout until now has meant that Spain has missed by far its target of vaccinating 80% of the people older than 80 by the end of March.
Regional officials had been complaining that the main bottleneck in the vaccine rollout was the limited supply of doses.
Health Minister Carolina Darias encouraged regions to keep vaccinating during weekends and holidays, adding the new shipments of vaccines gave no excuses.
BEIJING — A Chinese border city hit by an outbreak of the coronavirus began a five-day drive Friday to vaccinate its entire population of 300,000 people.
State broadcaster CCTV showed people lining up and getting vaccinated in Ruili, where 16 cases have been confirmed since Tuesday. Twelve of them are Chinese and the other four are nationals of Myanmar, which lies across the border.
A city Communist Party official told CCTV the previous day that 159,000 doses of vaccine had arrived in the city.
Television footage showed vacant streets as officials ordered people to home quarantine and closed non-essential businesses. The city has also said it would tighten controls around the porous border to try to stop anyone crossing illegally from Myanmar.
China has largely eradicated local transmission of the coronavirus and quickly rolls out strict measures whenever a new cluster emerges.
This is the first time China has tried to vaccinate an entire city in response to new outbreak. The move comes as the government ramps up a nationwide vaccination drive.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized two changes to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that can provide extra doses from each vial.
The agency said late Thursday it approved new vials from Moderna that can contain up to 15 doses each, compared with the original vials designed to hold 10 doses. Additionally, regulators said providers can safely extract up to 11 doses from the original 10-dose vials. Those changes will be added to instructions for health care workers.
The dosing updates should help bolster U.S. supplies and speed vaccinations as the U.S. nears 100 million people inoculated against COVID-19. President Joe Biden has vowed to provide enough shots to vaccinate all U.S. adults by late May and recently set a new goal of administering 200 million injections within his first 100 days in office.
Moderna said in a statement it plans to begin shipping the new 15-dose vials in coming weeks. The company submitted updated data to FDA showing how much vaccine can be extracted from each vial using different types of syringes.