LONDON — The U.K. says half of the country’s adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The National Health Service has put shots in the arms of 26.9 million people, or 51% of the adult population, according to the latest government statistics. The NHS passed the halfway point on Friday by delivering 589,689 doses.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday that’s the highest daily total since the mass vaccination program began in early December.
The celebration comes amid growing concerns about the failure of wealthy countries to share scarce vaccine supplies with developing nations. The director of a London-based health policy think tank says while Britain should be proud of the success of its vaccination drive, it’s time to start thinking about the rest of the world. Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, says the country has the rights to enough doses to vaccinate its entire population twice.
He says ensuring the world is vaccinated is a scientific and economic imperative: “Science has given us the exit strategy, but it will only work if its benefits can reach the maximum number of people around the world.”
EU presses for faster vaccine delivery
BERLIN — The European Union’s executive arm is increasing its pressure on pharmaceutical companies to speed up their vaccine delivery to the continent as virus numbers are rising again in many member countries.
The European Commission says AstraZeneca in particular could face export bans to countries outside the EU if it didn’t quickly deliver the promised amount of vaccines to the 27-nation bloc.
“We have the possibility to ban planned exports,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday in an interview with German media group Funke.
She said the commission had sent a “formal reminder” to AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is one of three vaccines that’s approved in the EU. However, its usage has been overshadowed by several problems, including a slow start, recurring delivery problems and a temporary ban for several days earlier this week in many of the bloc’s member countries after reports of blood clots in some recipients of the vaccine.
Most countries in the EU resumed giving shots of AstraZeneca again Friday as infection numbers were spiking again across the continent.
Prince Harry adds to book for children
LONDON — Britain’s Prince Harry has written the forward for a new book aimed at the children of frontline workers who died in the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing the pain he suffered as a boy after the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
Harry wrote that losing his mother at age 12 left “a huge hole inside of me,” according to excerpts of the book printed in the Times of London. Diana died in a Paris car accident in August 1997.
“Hospital by the Hill,’' by Chris Connaughton, is the story of a young person whose mother worked at a hospital and died during the pandemic. It is being given to children who have experienced similar losses.
“While I wish I was able to hug you right now, I hope this story is able to provide you comfort in knowing that you’re not alone,” Harry wrote in the forward. “When I was a young boy I lost my mum. At the time, I didn’t want to believe it or accept it, and it left a huge hole inside of me. I know how you feel, and I want to assure you that over time that hole will be filled with so much love and support.”
Harry has on several occasions reflected on the enduring pain he experienced from his mother’s sudden death. He has made mental health awareness a key part of his charitable work.
Congolese opposition candidate has COVID
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo — The leading opposition presidential candidate in Republic of Congo was receiving oxygen at a private hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, a family member said, casting Sunday’s election into doubt on the eve of the vote.
Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, 61, had skipped his final campaign event on Friday after telling some reporters a day earlier that he feared he had malaria. A relative who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter said plans were underway for Kolelas to be evacuated abroad for further treatment.
A video circulating on social media dated Friday showed Kolelas wearing an oxygen mask and with a blood pressure cuff on his arm as he lay in a hospital bed.
“My dear compatriots, I am in trouble. I am fighting death,” the candidate says in a weak-sounding voice after removing his oxygen mask. “However, I ask you to stand up and vote for change. I would not have fought for nothing.”
A campaign spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the video and Kolelas’ hospitalization. Two people at the hospital who had seen the Kolelas’ test results confirmed to the AP late Saturday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
LA mayor critiques vaccine distribution
SAN FRANCISCO — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says a lot of pandemic deaths could have been prevented in California if the state had focused earlier on vaccinating people in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Garcetti also said Friday the federal and state governments haven’t given local officials like him enough freedom to inoculate who they feel are most at risk.
Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom are fellow Democrats and close friends. And while the mayor didn’t name Newsom, his comments ultimately are criticism of the governor and his initial tightly constrained approach to vaccinating residents by age and profession.
Newsom has since pivoted and set aside 40% of all doses for people in the state’s poorest areas.
Easter Egg Roll canceled again
WASHINGTON — The White House is canceling the annual Easter Egg Roll for the second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesman for first lady Jill Biden said Friday the White House will mark the holiday by sending out 2021 commemorative Easter Egg Roll eggs in the coming days to vaccination sites and local hospitals.
President Rutherford B. Hayes started the tradition in 1878.
There have been a few other times when the event was either moved off the White House grounds or cancelled. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson suspended the Egg Roll, and Franklin Roosevelt did the same during World War II. President Harry Truman scratched the Egg Roll from 1948 to 1952, because of food rationing and renovations at the White House.
President Dwight Eisenhower restored the event in 1953.