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The Latest: Poland plans to use newly arrived J&J vaccines

WARSAW, Poland – Poland plans to go ahead with immunizations using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after receiving its first batch of 120,000 doses on Wednesday.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said Poland is following the latest recommendations from the European Medicines Agency, which said it is “currently not clear” whether the J&J; shot caused rare blood clots reported in some recipients. The EMA approved the vaccine for use in the European Union last month.

“In line with these recommendations, we will want to use it in inoculations,” Niedzielski said.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday temporarily paused Johnson & Johnson shots in the United States to investigate possible links to blood clots in six women six to 13 days after vaccination.

Poland is trying to speed up its vaccination drive amid high numbers of daily coronavirus cases and COVID-19-related deaths. Niedzielski said some 75% of COVID-19 hospital beds are taken.

The country of some 38 million people has administered almost 8 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

– Biden says pause on J&J; shots shows govt putting safety 1st

Food and Drug Administration to pause the shots in the United States to investigate possible links to very rare blood clots.

The hold up comes after various delays in shipments of other vaccines and a similar blood clot scare with the AstraZeneca vaccine that led Spain to limit it to people over 60 years old.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, however, told Spain’s Parliament on Wednesday that “the pace of vaccination is going to accelerate in the month of April and (…) we will meet out goal.”

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BERLIN – German health authorities are recommending that people younger than 60 who have already received one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine use a different vaccine for their second dose over concerns of blood clots.

The Health Ministry said Wednesday that it was recommending that people in that category receive as their second shot either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, both of which were developed using a different process.

It says, however, that in individual cases younger people wanting a second AstraZeneca shot can get one so long as they have a careful medical risk assessment. That also applies to high-risk people under the age of 60 still awaiting their primary vaccination.

The reports of rare blood clots in some people who’ve received the vaccine prompted Germany and several other countries in the 27-nation European Union to limit the AstraZeneca shots to older age groups, who are more at risk from serious illness when infected with COVID-19.

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CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s trade minister will fly to Europe to argue against export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines as the nation attempts to accelerate its inoculation rollout.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan leaves on Thursday for Geneva, Berlin, Brussels, Paris and London with vaccine supply added to a post-Brexit trade deal agenda.

“The first idea I’ll be bringing to the table is that export restrictions aren’t the way to go,” Tehan told Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday.

Deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia were 3 million doses behind schedule, he said.

Australia is rethinking its vaccine rollout after the nation’s health authorities advised last week that Pfizer was now the preferred option for people younger than 50 because of a potential risk of rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca shot.

The government also abandoned its target of delivering at least one dose of either vaccine to all eligible adults among a population of 26 million by October.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday offering all Australian adults at least one vaccine dose by the end of 2021 was a possibility if international supply lines remained open.

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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has recorded its highest daily jump in new COVID-19 infections in about three months, as officials urge the public to maintain vigilance.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Wednesday it’s confirmed 731 new cases over the past 24 hours. They brought the country’s total to 111,419 with 1,782 deaths.

The spike comes amid criticism of a slow vaccine rollout while people are increasingly venturing outdoors to take advantage of good weather.

Senior health official Yoon Taeho says an increased mobility last weekend was proof that South Korea’s public vigilance has loosened, and that elevating social distancing rules will be discussed in the next few days.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. health insurance customers may receive higher premium rebates than normal later this year partly because insurers had less care to cover after COVID-19 arrived in 2020.

Some individual insurance customers could receive premium credits or rebates of nearly $300 on average, according to an analysis of government data from the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to give customers refunds or premium credits if they don’t spend certain percentages of the premiums they collect on care and costs related to it.

Kaiser’s analysis noted that last year hospitals and other care providers canceled surgeries and non-essential care early in the pandemic and then during subsequent COVID-19 spikes.

Kaiser Vice President Cynthia Cox said nearly half of customers in the individual market receive these annual rebates. Some people with employer-sponsored coverage also may get rebates that they share with their company.

Rebate totals will be finalized later this year. They generally are then delivered by the end of September. The totals will vary by market and depend on factors like whether an insurer has already offered premium breaks to counter the drop in care.

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BERLIN – South Africa has suspended giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a “precautionary measure” following the FDA decision in the U.S. to pause the use of the vaccine while rare blood clots are examined.

All six cases were in women between ages 18 to 48, including one who died. The unusual clots occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.

South Africa has given more than 289,000 shots of the J&J; vaccine to the country’s health workers without any reports of blood clots, Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize says.

He says South Africa is halting the use of the J&J; doses “out of an abundance of caution.” He expects the questions regarding the J&J; vaccine should “be cleared within a matter of days.”

Recently, the blood clot reports prompted several European Union countries in the 27-nation bloc to limit the AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups.

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