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The Latest: Fauci: Whatever vaccine is available, take it

   February 25, 2021 7:08 AM
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by The Associated Press

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PANDEMIC Vaccines
 
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says if a coronavirus vaccine is available, regardless of which one, take it.

The top U.S. infectious disease expert told NBC on Thursday a third vaccine becoming available "is nothing but good news" and would help control of the pandemic. U.S. regulators announced Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19. It's expected to be approved soon by the FDA.

Fauci warns people not to hold off on getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while waiting for the slightly more effective Pfizer or Moderna shots.

He says it's a race "between the virus and getting vaccines into people" and "the longer one waits not getting vaccinated, the better chance the virus has to get a variant or a mutation."

Fauci says public health officials are always concerned about virus variants and stressed following public health measures of wearing masks and social distancing.

The predominant coronavirus variant in the United States is from Britain. Fauci says the vaccines distributed in the U.S. "clearly can take care of that particular strain."

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Pfizer is studying effects of third vaccine dose as booster

— Medical oxygen scarce for coronavirus patients in Africa, Latin America

— Republicans solidly against $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill with decision looming on minimum wage increase

— Flu virtually disappears in U.S. this season, with COVID-19 precautions likely preventing both illnesses

— EU summit to tackle why the 27-nation bloc's vaccine rollout has been so slow

— Qantas expects to resume international flights in October, after Australian population is vaccinated

— Follow all of AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

NEW YORK — Pfizer announced it has begun studying a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, part of a strategy to guard against mutated versions of the coronavirus.

Health authorities say first-generation COVID-19 vaccines still protect against variants that are emerging in different parts of the world. But manufacturers are starting to prepare now in case a more vaccine-resistant mutation comes along.

Pfizer said it will offer a third dose to 144 volunteers, drawing from people who participated in the vaccine's early-stage U.S. testing last year. It wants to determine if an additional booster shot given six to 12 months after the first two doses would rev up the immune system enough to ward off a mutated virus.

Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, also are tweaking their vaccine recipe. The companies are in discussions with U.S. and European regulators about a study to evaluate doses updated to better match variants such as the one first discovered in South Africa.

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BUDAPEST — Hungary's government is maintaining pandemic restrictions until at least March 15 as rising COVID-19 cases and deaths are expected to worsen in coming weeks.

Experts expect hospitalizations to increase drastically in the next two weeks as the pandemic's "third wave" hits Hungary, the prime minister's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said Thursday.

The restrictions in place since Nov. 11 - including an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, limiting restaurants to take-out and delivery service, and the closure of theatres, spas, hotels and other establishments - must be kept in place, he said.

The Hungarian government last week launched a survey asking for citizens' opinions on lifting pandemic restrictions, and on the possibility of issuing immunity certificates to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

Such certificates will become available after March 1, Gulyas said, and the government will later decide what special rights will be afforded to certificate holders.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization's Europe unit is reporting that about one in 10 people who contracted COVID-19 continue to show "persistent ill health" 12 weeks after infection.

Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of WHO Europe, says much about so-called "long COVID" remains unknown, but the "burden is real, and it is significant."

In a policy brief released on Thursday, WHO Europe urged policymakers to do more to acknowledge and treat long COVID, which can bring severe fatigue, chest pain, heart inflammation, headache, forgetfulness, depression, loss of smell, recurrent fever, diarrhea and ringing in the ears.

It said available data showed that about one in four people with COVID-19 show symptoms about a month after testing positive, while one in 10 experience symptoms after 12 weeks.

Kluge told reporters that the coronavirus is still spreading at "very high rates" across the 53-country European region, citing two variants of concern. However, he said fewer than 1 million new cases have been reported for a second straight week and transmission is slowing.

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