The Latest: UK prepares to vaccinate children ages 12-15

LONDON — The British government says it is preparing to vaccinate children ages 12-15 against the coronavirus, even though the inoculation campaign has not yet been approved by the country’s vaccine advisors.

The Department of Health said it wants “to be ready to hit the ground running” once approval comes and be in position to deliver shots in schools when the new academic year starts in most of the country. The return of children to class in September is expected to drive up Britain’s already high coronavirus infection rate.

Britain is currently giving coronavirus vaccinations to people 16 and up, as well as those between 12 and 15 with underlying health conditions or who live with vulnerable adults.

Britain’s medicines regulator has approved the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the 12 to 15 age group. But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, which sets policy, has not signed off on shots for most adolescents that young.

The United States, Canada and several European countries are already vaccinating people who are at least 12 years old.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— US intelligence agencies still divided on origins of the coronavirus

— COVID-19 deaths straining some hospital morgues in Florida

Asian tourism sees ups, downs in 2nd year of pandemic

— More virus shots, studies offer hope for U.S. schools

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— Find more AP 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:

TOKYO — Tokyo City Hall has apologized for “confusion” amid its vaccination rollout targeting young people, after crowds looking to get the shot were turned away from a facility in the Shibuya district.

Health authorities on Saturday switched to a reservation system instead of first come, first served. But more than 2,200 people showed up to get vaccine appointment vouchers, some waiting in line since dawn, and 354 were selected by lottery to receive shots, Japanese media reported.

Inoculations for those ages 16 through 39 began Friday.

Japan, which has one of the slowest COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the developed world, has prioritized giving shots to elderly people and then gradually working its way down by age group.

The latest development appears to counter critics who had suggested young people wouldn’t be interested in getting vaccinated.

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MIAMI — A teenager in a Florida county that leads the state in COVID-19 cases per capita has died. Jo’Keria Graham died in Columbia County just days before she planned to start her senior year of high school. The 17-year-old was in isolation at her Lake City home after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The high schooler loved taking care of younger children and called her grandparents daily to check on them or help at their office. She had seemed to be on the mend and asked her grandparents to bring her breakfast. They were on their way to drop off the food when the girl collapsed in the bathroom earlier this month.

“She was saying, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’,” her grandmother, Tina Graham, said Friday, noting the teen was buried in her cap and gown.

“We thought she was doing fine. Both of my sons had it, and one of my sons was really really sick and she wasn’t near as sick as he was,” Graham said.

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LONDON — A new British study suggests people who get COVID-19 from the extra-contagious delta variant are about twice as likely to be hospitalized than those who caught an earlier version of the coronavirus.

The delta variant spreads much more easily than the alpha variant that previously was widespread in much of the world. But whether it also causes more severe disease is unclear, something hard to tease out — in part because delta took off just as many countries relaxed their pandemic restrictions even as large swaths of the population remained unvaccinated.

Researchers with Public Health England examined more than 40,000 COVID-19 cases that occurred between March and May, when the delta variant began its surge in Britain, to compare hospitalization rates. The results were similar to preliminary findings from a Scottish study that also suggested delta triggered more hospitalizations.

Importantly, less than 2% of all the cases tracked in the newest study were among the fully vaccinated.

The findings were published Friday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

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MOSCOW — Russian news reports say a fire in a hospital killed three patients who were on ventilators while being treated for COVID-19.

State news agencies Tass and RIA-Novosti said the fire took place in Yarsolavl, about 250 kilometers (150 miles) north of Moscow.

Unnamed officials cited in the reports gave various causes for the fire, saying either that a mattress caught fire or that it began in a ventilator apparatus.

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KINSHASA, Congo — Authorities have arrested Congo’s former public health minister following allegations he misappropriated more than $1 million in funds allocated by the World Bank to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Eteni Longondo has maintained his innocence, but he was taken to the central prison of Makala following an hours-long court proceeding in Kinshasa, according to Inspector General of Finance Jules Alingeti.

It was not immediately known what specific charges Longondo faced or whether he had retained a lawyer.

The alleged acts of mismanagement had come to light during investigations carried out at the Ministry of Health and the Central Bank of Congo, Alingeti said.

Longondo had been appointed to the health minister position in 2019 and managed the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Congo prior to being replaced in April.

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MEXICO CITY — Hundreds of parents in Mexico have resorted to filing for court injunctions to get coronavirus vaccines for their children after the government refused to consider vaccinating those under 18.

In the U.S. and other countries, childhood vaccinations are already underway, but Mexican officials have downplayed the risk for minors. That is despite the 613 deaths and 60,928 confirmed COVID-19 cases among people under 18 in Mexico to date.

About 15 parents have won the injunctions and got their children shots as the government presses schools to return to in-person classes Monday.

Alma Franco, a lawyer in the southern state of Oaxaca, was one of the first to seek vaccination for her children through the constitutional appeals known in Mexico as “amparos.” Such appeals ask a judge to strike down, freeze or reverse a government action that may violate the plaintiff’s rights.

Franco won the appeal and got a vaccine shot for her 12-year-old son, and then posted a copy of the appeal on social media so others could essentially copy and paste it and file their own.

She said an estimated 200 parents have followed her path to try to win vaccines.