Health News Roundup: U.S. will boost ‘Do Not Travel’ advisories to 80% of world; Israel to buy Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses and more

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Ontario complains of more vaccine delays as premier under fire for third COVID wave

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Monday the province expects to face a delay in the supply of the AstraZeneca Plc COVID-19 vaccine, as he faces significant blowback for his handling of the pandemic in Ontario. “The Premier was notified today by our officials to be prepared for delays to two shipments of AstraZeneca expected from the federal government later this month and next,” a statement from Ford’s office said.

U.S. will boost ‘Do Not Travel’ advisories to 80% of world

The U.S. State Department said on Monday it will boost its “Do Not Travel” guidance to about 80% of countries worldwide, citing “unprecedented risk to travelers” from the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Department already listed 34 out of about 200 countries as “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” including places like Chad, Kosovo, Kenya, Brazil, Argentina, Haiti, Mozambique, Russia and Tanzania.

Philippines approves emergency use of J&J, Bharat Biotech COVID-19 vaccines

The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and India’s Bharat Biotech, it said on Tuesday. Both vaccines can be administered to people aged 18 and above in the Philippines, the agency chief, Rolando Enrique Domingo, said in a mobile text message.

New U.S. COVID cases fall 0.4% last week, after rising for four weeks

New cases of COVID-19 in the United States fell 0.4% last week after rising for four weeks in a row, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county data. Health experts say new cases have plateaued at a high level as more infectious variants of the virus offset progress made in vaccinations. The country logged nearly 70,000 new cases per day in the week ended April 18, compared with 55,000 new cases a day in March and about 30,000 new cases this time last year.

Austria to funnel 651,000 COVID vaccine doses to Western Balkans from EU

Austria said on Tuesday it plans to funnel 651,000 doses of BioNTech and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to six countries of the Western Balkans by August as part of a European Union scheme to provide assistance to neighboring countries and Africa. The European Commission outlined its plans for a vaccine-sharing mechanism in January. Austria said it would serve as that mechanism’s coordinator for the Western Balkans, and that this first distribution of doses may be followed by others.

Non-stop cremations cast doubt on India’s counting of COVID dead

Gas and firewood furnaces at a crematorium in the western Indian state of Gujarat have been running so long without a break during the COVID-19 pandemic that metal parts have begun to melt. “We are working around the clock at 100% capacity to cremate bodies on time,” Kamlesh Sailor, the president of the trust that runs the crematorium in the diamond-polishing city of Surat, told Reuters.

U.S. State Department says COVID-19 vaccines shipped for all overseas workforce

The U.S. State Department has delivered COVID-19 vaccines to all of its eligible workforce deployed abroad as of Sunday and is expecting its entire workforce to have been fully vaccinated by mid-May, State Department officials said. Earlier this year, the department came under fire from its staff as it struggled to vaccinate thousands of diplomats stationed in 220 overseas locations, considered a key human resource in advancing America’s national security interests.

New Zealand expects Australia ‘travel bubble’ to stay open despite new virus case

New Zealand authorities reported on Tuesday that a worker in Auckland airport has tested positive for COVID-19, but doubted whether the new case would warrant ordering a pause in quarantine-free travel with Australia. Australia and New Zealand opened a travel bubble on Monday after both countries had closed borders in March 2020 to non-citizens and permanent residents to contain the pandemic.

Israel to buy millions of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses

Israel signed a deal to buy millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc through 2022, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday. The new vaccinations will be suitable to protect people against different variants of the coronavirus, Netanyahu said in a statement.

J&J COVID-19 vaccine reviewed for links to additional reports of severe side effects: CDC

The United States is reviewing reports of a handful of potential cases of severe side effects among people who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to those that led to a pause in its use, a top U.S. public health official said on Monday. U.S. health regulators called for a pause in administering the J&J vaccine last week due to reports of serious brain blood clots in six women under age 50 who received the shot out of some 7 million vaccinated with it in the United States.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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