HOUSTON — A giant vaccination center is opening in Houston to administer 126,000 coronavirus doses in the next three weeks. Nevada health officials are working overtime to distribute delayed shots. And Rhode Island is rescheduling appointments after a vaccine shipment failed to arrive as scheduled earlier in the week.

From coast to coast, states were scrambling Tuesday to catch up on vaccinations a week after winter storms battered a large swath of the U.S. and led to clinic closures, canceled appointments and shipment backlogs nationwide.

But limited supply of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines hampered the pace of vaccinations even before extreme weather delayed the delivery of about 6 million doses.

The White House promised on Tuesday that help is on the way.

States can expect about 14.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week, an almost 70 percent increase in distribution over the past month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. And White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients told governors on Tuesday that the number of doses sent directly to pharmacies will increase by about 100,000 this week, Psaki said.

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Post-COVID-19, some patients struggle to regain senses of smell and taste

NICE, France — The doctor slid a miniature camera into the patient’s right nostril, making her whole nose glow red with its bright miniature light.

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Dr. Clair Vandersteen wafts a tube of odors under the nose of a patient, Gabriella Forgione, during tests in a hospital in Nice, France, this month to help determine why she has been unable to smell or taste since she contracted COVID-19 in November. John Leicester/Associated Press

“Tickles a bit, eh?” he asked as he rummaged around her nasal passages, the discomfort causing tears to well in her eyes and roll down her cheeks.

The patient, Gabriella Forgione, wasn’t complaining. The 25-year-old pharmacy worker was happy to be prodded and poked at the hospital in Nice, in southern France, to advance her increasingly pressing quest to recover her sense of smell. Along with her sense of taste, it suddenly vanished when she fell ill with COVID-19 in November, and neither has returned.

Being deprived of the pleasures of food and the scents of things that she loves are proving tough on her body and mind. Shorn of odors both good and bad, Forgione is losing weight and self-confidence.

“Sometimes I ask myself, ’Do I stink?'” she confessed. “Normally, I wear perfume and like for things to smell nice. Not being able to smell bothers me greatly.”

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and researchers are still striving to better understand and treat the accompanying epidemic of COVID-19-related anosmia — loss of smell — draining much of the joy of life from an increasing number of sensorially frustrated longer-term sufferers like Forgione.

Even specialist doctors say there is much about the condition they still don’t know and they are learning as they go along in their diagnoses and treatments. Impairment and alteration of smell have become so common with COVID-19 that some researchers suggest that simple odor tests could be used to track coronavirus infections in countries with few laboratories.

For most people, the olfactory problems are temporary, often improving on their own in weeks. But a small minority are complaining of persistent dysfunction long after other COVID-19 symptoms have disappeared. Some have reported continued total or partial loss of smell six months after infection. The longest, some doctors say, are now approaching a full year.

Researchers working on the vexing disability say they are optimistic that most will eventually recover but fear some will not. Some doctors are concerned that growing numbers of smell-deprived patients, many of them young, could be more prone to depression and other difficulties and weigh on strained health systems.

“They are losing color in their lives,” said Dr. Thomas Hummel, who heads the smell and taste outpatients clinic at University Hospital in Dresden, Germany.

“These people will survive and they’ll be successful in their lives, in their professions,” Hummel added. “But their lives will be much poorer.”

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Expect big jump in vaccine delivery, drug executives tell Congress

WASHINGTON — COVID-19 vaccine makers told Congress on Tuesday to expect a big jump in the delivery of doses over the coming month, and the companies insist they will be able to provide enough for most Americans to get inoculated by summer.

By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the U.S. government with a total of 220 million vaccine doses, up sharply from the roughly 75 million shipped so far.

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In this May 2020 photo provided by Eli Lilly, researchers prepare cells to produce possible COVID-19 antibodies for testing in a laboratory in Indianapolis.

“We do believe we’re on track,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge said, outlining ways the company has ramped up production. “We think we’re at a very good spot.”

That’s not counting a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, that’s expected to get a green light from regulators soon. The Biden administration said Tuesday that it expects about 2 million doses of that vaccine to be shipped in the first week, but the company told lawmakers it should provide enough of the single-dose option for 20 million people by the end of March.

Looking ahead to summer, Pfizer and Moderna expect to complete delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate every American adult, the goal set by the Biden administration.

Two other manufacturers, Novavax and AstraZeneca, have vaccines in the pipeline and anticipate eventually adding to those totals.

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In 1 state at least, older people in rural counties are more likely to get vaccinated

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In Minnesota, those 65 years and older are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, but whether they are inoculated has a lot to do with they live.

In some rural Minnesota counties, older residents are more than twice as likely to have gotten at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than if they live in most parts of the Twin Cities metro area, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Many of the places in Minnesota with the highest vaccination rates for people 65 and older are in rural areas that have multiple streams of the vaccine.

Mahnomen and Red Lake counties, for example, have vaccine coming in from the state and the federal governments, to clinics, pharmacies, local health departments and Indian Health Service facilities. Both are among the top five counties statewide with the highest vaccination rates among residents who are 65 and older.

“Rural residents are older, on average, than urban residents,” said Carrie Henning-Smith, who directs the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center. “And as we’re prioritizing older adults, and health care workers, we should be seeing higher rates of vaccination in rural places.”

If some rural communities are getting seemingly disproportionate allocations of the vaccine, that’s as it should be, she said.

“People are more likely to be connected with their local clinic, their local health care system. There’s less confusion about ‘which system do I go with,’ because you have fewer systems to choose from in the first place,” Henning-Smith said.

Johnson & Johnson says it can provide 20 million doses of 1-shot vaccine if approved

WASHINGTON — Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson says it will be able to provide 20 million U.S. doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, assuming it gets the greenlight from federal regulators.

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Vials of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in the United States in December 2020. On Thursday, Feb. 4, Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies. Johnson & Johnson via AP

J&J disclosed the figure ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday looking at the country’s vaccine supply. White House officials cautioned last week that initial supplies of J&J’s vaccine would be limited.

The company reiterated that it will have capacity to provide 100 million vaccine doses to the U.S. by the end of June. That supply will help government officials reach the goal of having enough injections to vaccinate most adult Americans later this year. On a global scale, the company aims to produce 1 billion doses this year.

U.S. health regulators are still reviewing the safety and effectiveness of the shot and a decision to allow its emergency use is expected later this week. J&J’s vaccine would be the first in the U.S. that requires only a single shot.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced weeks apart. Executives from both companies and two other vaccine makers will also testify at Tuesday’s hearing.

Hungary urges citizens to get vaccine from China

BUDAPEST — Officials in Hungary are urging people to trust in the vaccines already approved by the country ahead of a planned rollout Wednesday of a COVID-19 vaccine developed in China.

General practitioners around the country will receive 55 doses each of the Sinopharm vaccine and have been instructed to give them to their oldest patients, state secretary Dr. Istvan Gyorgy says.

He says 275,000 people will receive the Chinese shot this week. Hungary will be the first country in the European Union to administer a Chinese vaccine despite polling that shows trust in the Sinopharm vaccine is low among Hungarians.

“Every vaccine available in Hungary is safe and able to provide protection against virus infection,” Gyorgy says.

Hungarian officials expect the Sinopharm vaccine, which received final approval last week, will provide a sharp increase in the country’s vaccination rate. Gyorgy says as many as 368,000 people could be inoculated this week, compared with 457,000 receiving a shot since vaccinations started in December.

Egypt receives 300,000 doses of vaccine from China

CAIRO — Egypt’s health ministry says the country has received a 300,000-dose shipment of the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine donated by China.

It was the third vaccine shipment received by Egypt. In December, it received a 50,000 doses of Sinopharm and last month it got another 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Tuesday’s shipment arrived hours after President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi called Chinese President Xi Jinping, hailing the “mutual support” during the pandemic.

Hala Zayed, the health minister, said the government has reserved 100 million vaccine doses including 40 million doses from COVAX, an international initiative to distribute vaccines to countries worldwide.

Egypt has seen a decrease in new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks. It has reported more than 178,774 confirmed cases, including 10,404 deaths, but experts say all confirmed numbers worldwide are low due to limited testing.

Egypt last month started vaccinating healthcare workers.

California will dispense $600 payments as part of state stimulus package

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers have cleared the way for 5.7 million people to get at least $600 in one-time payments, part of a state-sized coronavirus relief package aimed at helping lower-income people weather what they hope is the last legs of the pandemic.

The state Legislature passed the bill by a wide margin on Monday, moving faster than their counterparts in Congress who are also considering another round of stimulus checks.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will sign it into law on Tuesday.

People with low to moderate incomes will be eligible. That includes people who claim the California earned income tax credit on their tax returns and, in general, people making $30,000 or less per year.

Immigrants who pay taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number and make $75,000 a year or less after deductions would also get the money.

Mexico receives 1st shipment of Russian vaccine

MEXICO CITY — Mexico has received its first shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

Some 200,000 doses arrived to Mexico City’s international airport late Monday night aboard a British Airways flight from Moscow. Officials plan to use the doses to begin vaccinating seniors in the capital’s most marginalized boroughs on Wednesday.

Mexico received its first shipment of vaccines from Pfizer in mid-December, but turned to Sputnik V in January when other expected vaccine shipments were delayed. Sputnik too arrives later than initially expected. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador spoke with Russia President Vladimir Putin in late January.

In early February, Mexican regulators gave Sputnik V emergency approval and the government signed a contract to bring 400,000 doses to Mexico in February.

Seattle delays in-person school for youngest students

SEATTLE — Seattle’s public school system is delaying a return to the classroom for its youngest students during the coronavirus pandemic by at least a week because it has yet to reach an agreement with the teachers’ union.

In a statement Monday the district said it had not yet negotiated new working conditions with the Seattle Education Association. Previously the district had hoped to begin some in-person learning on March 8.

Gov. Jay Inslee has urged more schools to open up to in-person instruction, saying the online classroom experience wasn’t adequate for many. Seattle is the state’s largest district, with about 50,000 students. The district had hoped to give parents the option to have preschool, kindergarten, first grade and special education students return for some classroom instruction.

The Seattle teachers’ union said it wants specific language on COVID-19 safety protocols put in writing.

Philippine president refuses to ease lockdown restrictions until vaccinations begin

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president will reject recommendations to further ease coronavirus quarantine restrictions until a delayed vaccination campaign kicks off, his spokesman said.

President Rodrigo Duterte also rejected a plan to resume face-to-face school classes in some pilot areas until vaccinations, which have been set back by delays in the arrival of initial batches of COVID-19 vaccine, have been launched, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

The scheduled delivery on Tuesday of 600,000 doses from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. was postponed anew after the China-based company failed to immediately secure an emergency-use permit from Manila’s Food and Drug Administration. Sinovac got the authorization Monday.

Top economic officials have asked Duterte to consider further easing quarantine restrictions starting in March to bolster the economy, which has suffered one of the worst recessions in the region, and stave off hunger. But Duterte rejected the recommendations.

“The chief executive recognizes the importance of re-opening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods,” Roque said but added that the president “gives higher premium to public health and safety.”

The Philippines has reported more than 563,000 confirmed cases and more than 12,000 deaths, the second highest in Southeast Asia.

FDA says shorter studies will be OK to see if vaccines can match variants

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it won’t require huge, months-long studies if COVID-19 vaccines eventually need tweaking to better match a mutating virus — small, short studies will suffice.

The vaccines now being rolled out do still protect against different variants of the virus, the FDA stressed. But viruses mutate constantly, and some new versions are starting to raise concerns. So FDA issued new guidelines for vaccines — as well as for virus tests and treatments — on steps that companies can start taking to get ready.

“We’re trying to be prepared in advance,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccines chief.

Already major manufacturers have started updating their vaccine recipes if regulators eventually decide that’s necessary.

Marks said the needed tests would include a few hundred people rather than thousands, and could take just two or three months. Volunteers would receive experimental doses of the tweaked vaccine and then have their blood checked to see if it revved up the immune system about as well as the original vaccines do.

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