By The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The U.S. is gearing up for the flu season on top of the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
Health officials urged Americans to get vaccinated against both the flu and coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccination for just about everyone, starting with 6-month-old babies.
Flu cases dropped to historically low levels globally over the pandemic, as restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus helped block other respiratory viruses. But with schools and businesses reopened, there’s no way to predict how bad a flu season the country might expect this winter.
“We certainly don’t want a ‘twindemic,’ both COVID and influenza,” said Dr. William Schaffner of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Options for flu shots include regular vaccines, shots that aim to give older adults a little extra protection, and a nasal spray. All offer protection against four different flu strains that global experts predict are most likely to spread this year.
If people still need a COVID-19 vaccination — either first shots or a booster dose — they can get it at the same visit as a flu shot.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Pfizer asks FDA to allow COVID-19 shots for kids ages 5 to 11
— More than 120,000 US children had caregivers die during pandemic
— WHO working to get COVID-19 medical supplies to North Korea
— Health officials say it’s OK to get COVID-19 and flu vaccines at same time
— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BERLIN — German officials say the nation has vaccinated about 3.5 million more people against the coronavirus than previously counted.
That means almost 80% of adults in Germany are fully vaccinated and about 84% have received at least one shot, according to the disease control center.
Health Minister Jens Spahn says the discrepancy between the numbers was “due to the fact that some vaccinations may not have been reported.” He added that worker vaccinations at big companies and shots given by mobile vaccination teams in nursing centers may not have been completely reported.
MADRID — Spanish authorities say the key 14-day infection rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people has dropped below 50 for the first time since July 2020.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says in a tweet it’s “a crucial milestone” in the fight against the pandemic. The Health Ministry on Thursday reported 48 officially recorded cases per 100,000 inhabitants over two weeks.
Officials say a large part is due to the national vaccination rollout, which has fully inoculated 77% of Spaniards. Pressure on hospitals has fallen considerably to 2,000 people admitted to hospitals and 551 in ICUs.
The Health Ministry reported 1,807 new cases from the previous day, taking the total to 4.9 million. There were 23 reported deaths, bringing the confirmed total to 86,701.
GENEVA — The U.N. secretary-general says a lack of equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines between wealthy and poor countries “is not only a question of being immoral, it is also a question of being stupid.”
Antonio Guterres called vaccine inequality the “best ally” of the COVID-19 pandemic. He decried hoarding of vaccines by rich countries, as well as vaccine nationalism and vaccine diplomacy – by which some producer nations try to use their doses as leverage.
Guterres told a World Health Organization news conference Thursday that if the virus continues to spread “like wildfire in the Global South,” there’s a risk that new variants could emerge and potentially resist current vaccines doled out widely around world.
GENEVA — A top World Health Organization official says legal issues holding up a review of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 are “about to be sorted out,” a step that could relaunch a process toward an emergency use authorization for the jabs from the agency.
Dr. Mariangela Simao, a WHO assistant director-general, says other hurdles remain for the Russian application for an WHO emergency use listing – including a lack of full information in the dossier and inspections of manufacturing sites.
“But I’m happy to say that the process is about to be restarted,” says Simao, who heads WHO’s division on access to medicines and health products, referring to the review. She notes the review months ago was “put on hold due to the lack of some legal procedures.”
Simao didn’t provide any timetable about when Sputnik V might be considered for the emergency use listing.
Those receiving Sputnik V doses are eager to find out whether it gets WHO emergency use authorization because some countries may prevent them from entering until its granted.
Approval could pave the way for its inclusion into the COVAX program, which is shipping vaccines to scores of countries around the world.
NEW YORK — Pfizer is asking the U.S. government to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11.
If regulators agree, shots could begin within a matter of weeks. Pfizer already had announced that a lower dose of its vaccine worked and appeared safe in a study of the youngsters.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Thursday officially filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. FDA’s advisers are scheduled to debate the evidence on Oct. 26. Until now, the vaccine was available only to those as young as 12, and many parents and pediatricians are clamoring for protection for younger kids.
Keeping children in school can be a challenge with the coronavirus still raging in poorly vaccinated communities.
SEOUL, South Korea — The World Health Organization has started shipping COVID-19 medical supplies into North Korea, a possible sign that the North is easing one of the world’s strictest pandemic border closures to receive outside help.
WHO says it has started the shipment of essential COVID-19 medical supplies through the Chinese port of Dalian for strategic stockpiling and further dispatch to North Korea.
WHO representative told AP the items included emergency health kits and medicine. The country still claims to have a perfect record of fighting the virus and has reported no coronavirus cases. It recently turned down some Sinovac vaccines offered via the U.N.-backed program. It had severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade for the past two years despite the strain on its crippled economy.
MOSCOW — The daily coronavirus death toll topped 900 for a second straight day with a record 924 deaths reported Thursday.
The toll reached 929 deaths the previous day. Russian authorities have struggled to control a surge in new cases amid a slow pace in vaccinations and few restrictions.
The government’s coronavirus task force reported 27,550 new confirmed cases on Thursday. That’s a nearly 10% rise from the previous day. New infections in Moscow soared by nearly 50% to 5,404 cases.
Russia has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic at more than 213,000 fatalities, which is considered by many health experts an undercount.
BEIRUT — Rebel-held northwest Syria is facing an unprecedented coronavirus surge and aid agencies are calling on the world to help provide humanitarian and medical aid, increase hospital capacity and ensure people are vaccinated.
The surge apparently caused by the more contagious delta variant has overwhelmed hospitals with sick patients and is causing shortages of oxygen, according to local officials. The local rebel-run authority imposed a nighttime curfew as of Tuesday while schools and universities were closed and students are getting distant learning.
The region is home to 4 million people, many of them internally displaced people by Syria’s 10-year conflict.
Dr. Khaula Sawah, president of The International Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, or UOSSM, says international aid is urgently needed “to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Millions of lives are at stake.”
The rate of positive test results — an indication of the level of virus spread — is around 55%, according to UOSSM and Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision. Only 1.3% of people are vaccinated, according to World Vision.
Local medical authorities say the number of registered coronavirus cases in the region reached nearly 77,000, with confirmed deaths at 1,357.
HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam’s airlines will resume domestic flights on Sunday, after the country suspended their operation in July to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
In the first phase of the resumption, passengers must be vaccinated with at least one shot and hold a negative virus test to board flights, according to the plan announced by the civil aviation authority Thursday. Carriers can board only half of each plane’s seat capacity.
Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Vietnam’s major city in the northern region, will remain closed for domestic flights. The city authority said on Wednesday it was not ready to receive a large volume of travelers, who could potentially spread the virus.
The outbreak fueled by the delta variant that began in July was Vietnam’s worst, infecting over 800,000 people and killing more than 20,000. More than half of the 98 million population was under lockdown for almost three months.
TOLEDO, Ohio — The number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. is falling and the number of new cases per day is about to dip below 100,000 for the first time in two months.
All are encouraging signs perhaps the summer surge is waning. Government leaders and employers are looking to strengthen and expand vaccine mandates.
Los Angeles has enacted one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates. Minnesota’s governor is calling for vaccine and testing requirements for teachers and long-term care workers. Health experts say there are still far too many unvaccinated people. In New York, a statewide vaccination mandate for all hospital and nursing home workers will be expanded Thursday to home care and hospice employees.
Across the nation, deaths per day have dropped by nearly 15% since mid-September and are averaging about 1,750. New cases have fallen to just over 103,000 per day on average, a 40% decline in the past three weeks.
The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has declined by about one-quarter since its most recent peak of almost 94,000 a month ago.
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