Alaska on Tuesday became the first state to remove nearly all eligibility requirements for the coronavirus vaccine, making immunization available to anyone 16 and older who lives or works in the state.

The state’s governor, Republican Mike Dunleavy, announced the move in a news release, calling it a “historic step” and “another nationwide first for Alaska.”

The statement marked a turning point in the nation’s immunization campaign and a reminder that access to the shots has been highly uneven throughout the country. Some states are still reserving appointments for adults 65 and older, in addition to other high-risk groups.

About a quarter of Alaska’s residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, making the state a leader in quickly carrying out inoculations. It shares that distinction with several heavily rural states, such as West Virginia and the Dakotas.

Alaska has also benefited from partnerships with tribal health organizations, which have received their own vaccine supply through the Indian Health Service.

Read the full story here.


Lines form at federal vaccine site in Florida as it breaks from state priorities

MIAMI — Hundreds of cars streamed bumper-to-bumper into a federally supported vaccination site that appeared to be offering shots to anyone who showed up, breaking from the eligibility requirements set by Gov. Ron DeSantis that were intended to put seniors at the head of the line.


People wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday in Miami. Thousands of people waited in line for hours to get the vaccine at the FEMA mass vaccination site at Miami Dade College. Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

The availability of the vaccine to a wider population sowed confusion — and hope — among those wanting to protect themselves from a disease that has already infected more than 1.9 million Floridians and killed nearly 32,000.

State officials said they were sorting through the situation. It was unclear what authority state officials might be able to exert on federal facilities.

Already, federal sites in Florida are adhering to federally issued guidelines that allow teachers and other school workers to get vaccinated — instead of complying with the Florida governor’s directive that sets an age minimum of 50 for educators and school staff members.

Because of initially low demand, another federally funded vaccination site in Florida City last weekend began administering shots to any takers, regardless of age. News spread, and the site was inundated the following day, prompting officials there to reimpose age restrictions.


On Tuesday morning, a traffic jam of vehicles formed in a parking lot at Miami Dade College North and a long caravan of cars snaked down a nearby street. Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Porsches took their place in line among ordinary people arriving in their Toyotas, Chevrolets and Fords.

People waited hours to get the vaccine. By 10 a.m., officials at the vaccination site announced they had depleted their supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

White House says states will get 900,000 more vaccine doses this week

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is making an additional 900,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available to states and pharmacy partners this week.


Vials for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are displayed on a tray at a clinic set up by the New Hampshire National Guard in the parking lot of Exeter, N.H., High School on Feb. 25. Associated Press/Charles Krupa

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that states and territories will receive 15.8 million doses of the two-shot vaccines, up from 15.2 million last week. Another 2.7 million doses will be distributed through the federal pharmacy program this week.

Last week, President Joe Biden directed the pharmacy program to prioritize teachers and childcare workers. Psaki says the U.S. is now delivering an average of 2.17 million doses per day.


There will be no shipments this week of the newly approved single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to manufacturing constraints. Those deliveries, which total 3.9 million doses so far, are set to resume as soon as next week. Another 16 million doses are expected to be shipped by the end of the month.

Smithsonian obtains vial from first U.S. COVID-19 vaccine dose

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has acquired the vial that contained the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine administered in the United States as part of its plans to document the global pandemic and “this extraordinary period we were going through.”

The acquisition, along with other materials related to that first vaccine dose, was announced by the museum on Tuesday to mark the upcoming one-year anniversary of the pandemic. Associated Press journalists were given an exclusive backstage look at the newly obtained materials, which include vials, special shipping equipment and the medical scrubs and ID badge of the New York City nurse who was America’s first coronavirus vaccine recipient.


Diane Wendt, a curator at the Museum of American History, displays a small glass tube containing one of the original batches of polio vaccine on Monday, March 8, in Washington. AP Photo/Ashraf Khalil

“We wanted objects that would tell the full story,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s director. “Everything from the scrubs to the freezer unit that shipped the vaccines.”

Although there are a host of coronavirus-related anniversaries taking place, the museum is choosing to mark Thursday — March 11, the day last year that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. That’s also the week that much of American life shut down as the virus made inroads into offices, homes and sporting events.


“Our broadest mandate was to document this extraordinary period we were going through” said Diane Wendt, a curator in the museum’s medicine and science department. “We particularly had our eye on vaccine development from the start.”

The first dose of vaccine in the U.S. was given on Dec. 14, 2020, by Northwell Health, a New York-based health provider, to Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse. The donation from Northwell includes the original Pfizer vials as well as the specialized shipping container, about the size of a hotel room fridge, that would deliver the super-cold Pfizer doses packed in dry ice. The museum also obtained first-batch vials of the alternate vaccine created by Moderna, and Lindsay donated her hospital ID badge and her white and blue medical scrubs.

“Our curators were particularly interested in the process and the packaging,” museum spokeswoman Melinda Machado said. “The story of the vaccine is not just what goes in your arm.”

The National Museum of American History closed on March 13 last year along with other Smithsonian facilities, including the National Zoo. It reopened on a limited basis in September but closed again around eight weeks later, before Thanksgiving, as local virus numbers started going back up.

Read the full story here.

Italy surpasses 100,000 dead


MILAN — Italy surpassed 100,000 dead in the pandemic, a year after it became the first country in Europe to go on lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.


Nurses work in the emergency COVID-19 ward at the Mellino Mellini hospital in Chiari, northern Italy, Monday, March 8. The 160-bed hospital in the Po River Valley town of Chiari has no more beds for patients stricken with the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain, and which now has put hospitals in Italy’s northern Brescia province on high alert. AP Photo/Luca Bruno

The Italian Health Ministry on Monday said 318 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 100,103, the second highest in Europe after Britain.

Italy recorded its first virus death on Feb. 21, 2020, when 78-year-old retired roofer Antonio Trevisan from a winemaking town west of Venice who had been hospitalized with heart issues died.

Italy’s total virus cases surpassed 3 million last week, with a new surge powered by the highly contagious variant that was first identified in Britain.

Nearly 14,000 new positives were recorded Monday as the number of people in ICUs rose to 2,700 — 95 more than a day earlier. Italy imposed a draconian nationwide lockdown last March 9, which continued for seven weeks and included a shutdown of all non-essential manufacturing.

Wyoming to lift mask mandates


CHEYANNE, Wyo. — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon says the state will join a handful of others that have lifted mask-wearing mandates to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The changes take effect March 16.


Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon gives the State of the State address to the 66th Wyoming Legislature, in the state Capitol on March 2. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP

Also being lifted are requirements for bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms, where employees must wear masks and customers not seated in small groups have to keep 6 feet apart.

Gordon cites Wyoming’s declining number of COVID-19 cases and its success in distributing vaccines as reasons to lift the restrictions.

The statewide order in place since December was set to expire next week. States including Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Texas also have lifted mask mandates.

Biden to deliver 1st primetime address Thursday on 1-year anniversary of pandemic

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will deliver his first primetime address to speak to the nation on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.


White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden would note the sacrifices and losses suffered by Americans during the last 12 months. More than 525,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.

It was March 11, 2020 when the pandemic hit home for many Americans and lockdowns began. That was the night the NBA suspended play, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced they had tested positive and then-President Donald Trump addressed the nation.

The anniversary comes as the administration has bolstered vaccine supply, and some states have begun reopening even as worries remain about virus variants.

Russia to make Sputnik V vaccine in Italy

MILAN — Russia has signed a deal to produce 10 million doses of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Italy this year.


Boxes of Sputnik V vaccines are ready to be unloaded from a truck at a warehouse of Hungaropharma, a Hungarian pharmaceutical wholesale company, in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, March 4. Zoltan Mathe/MTI via AP

The deal was announced Tuesday by the Italian-Russian chamber of commerce. It was signed by Adienne Srl, the Italian subsidiary of a Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, with the Russian Direct Investment Fund.


The Italian-Russian chamber of commerce says Russian authorities are working on 20 similar collaborations across Europe and Sputnik V has been registered in 45 nations worldwide.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the vaccine and markets it abroad has said the production of Sputnik V will span several countries, including India, South Korea, Brazil, China, Turkey, Iran, as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan. Some manufacturers abroad have produced trial batches of the Russian vaccine, but there are few indications they have so far produced any large amounts of the shot.

Bosnia sees huge rise in new infections

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Bosnia has reported a huge rise in daily new infections with the coronavirus amid warnings that hospitals in the Balkan country are rapidly filling up.

Authorities on Tuesday reported 1,251 new infections in the past 24 hours, compared to 400 new cases reported on Monday and similar numbers over the weekend.

The surge has prompted authorities in the capital Sarajevo to announce the closure of all bars, restaurants and non-essential shops for the upcoming weekend. Dozens of owners of small businesses have protested the measure, demanding compensation.


Vaccination in Bosnia has been slow after shots through international COVAX program has been stalled. Bosnia has received 10,000 doses of Astra-Zeneca vaccines from Serbia, while the country’s Serb-dominated region has acquired Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines.

Bosnia confirmed another 48 deaths, raising the total to more than 5,000 coronavirus deaths in the country of 3.5 million.

New Mexico to reopen schools next month

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is clearing the way for schools to reopen next month as vaccine eligibility is expanding to include shots for all teachers and other educators.

State education officials announced Monday that five-day a week in-class programs would be open to those who want them. Districts also will be required to provide virtual learning options for students who opt out.

As part of the vaccination effort, the state plans to get teachers their first shots by the end of March.


The state is making the move as part of a directive by the Biden administration. State officials have acknowledged that meeting the goal depends on the federal government increasing vaccine shipments.

Hawaii detects South Africa variant

HONOLULU — Hawaii has detected a new COVID-19 variant in the islands, one that first emerged in South Africa.

The state Department of Health said Monday the virus, which has technical name B.1.351 was found in an Oahu resident with no travel history.

Some tests suggest the variant may be less susceptible to antibody drugs or antibody-rich blood from COVID-19 survivors.

Acting State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said in a statement that a study conducted in South Africa, where the variant was predominant, showed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was effective in preventing serious disease requiring hospitalization and in preventing death.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of Sunday, 81 cases of the South African variant have been detected in 19 states and Washington, D.C.

Hawaii has already detected eight cases of the U.K. or B.1.1.7 variant, including two more announced Monday in an Oahu resident who traveled to the U.S. mainland and a household contact of that person.

WHO advises against ‘vaccine passports’ for international travel

GENEVA — A senior World Health Organization official says “vaccine passports” for COVID-19 should not be used for international travel because of numerous concerns, including ethical considerations that coronavirus vaccines are not easily available globally.

At a press briefing on Monday, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said there are “real practical and ethical considerations” for countries considering using vaccine certification as a condition for travel, adding the U.N. health agency advises against it for now.

“Vaccination is just not available enough around the world and is not available certainly on an equitable basis,” Ryan said. WHO has previously noted that it’s still unknown how long immunity lasts from the numerous licensed COVID-19 vaccines and that data are still being collected.

Ryan also noted the strategy might be unfair to people who cannot be vaccinated for certain reasons and that requiring vaccine passports might allow “inequity and unfairness (to) be further branded into the system.”

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