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The Latest: Hong Kong starts virus jabs at community centers

HONG KONG — Hong Kong has begun administering its first COVID-19 vaccines to the public, kicking off its mass inoculation targeting all 7.5 million residents.

People age 60 and older and health care workers are among some 2.4 million people prioritized to receive vaccines at community centers and outpatient clinics across Hong Kong.

The government said Friday registrations for the first two weeks of the program are full.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, watches a doctor receives a shot of AstraZeneca vaccine at a public health center in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. South Korea on Friday administered its first available shots of coronavirus vaccines to people at long-term care facilities, launching a mass immunization campaign that health authorities hope will restore some level of normalcy by the end of the year. (Choe Jae-kooYonhap via AP)

Participants so far will be receiving the vaccine by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac. A million doses arrived in the city last week, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other top government officials were vaccinated first in a bid to bolster confidence in the program.

Hong Kong has struck deals to buy 22.5 million doses of vaccines from Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Fosun Pharma, which will deliver the shots developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

A pedestrian in a face covering walks past the sign plastered on the windows of a restaurant to announce that it is open after closure because of the coronavirus Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP PhotoDavid Zalubowski)

— Vaccination ‘passports’ may open society, but inequity looms

— 2 US Navy warships in Mideast affected by coronavirus

— South Korea starts vaccinating, but people over 65 must wait

— Scientists have identified a mutated version of the coronavirus spreading in New York.

A cyclist wears a face mask while riding on a trail after more than a foot of snow was left by a late winter storm that swept over the region Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP PhotoDavid Zalubowski)

— European Union leaders have vowed to speed the rollout of coronavirus vaccines. They are stepping up pressure on drug makers to respect their supply commitments.

— The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has plummeted by 80,000 in six weeks, and 17% of the nation’s adult population has gotten at least one dose of vaccine.

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

COVID-19 patient Wellington Bernardo dos Santos, 46, thanks health workers after being discharged from the Luziania field hospital, a suburb of Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 . With the cities on the borders of Brasilia in a state of calamity due to the pandemic and with high occupancy at ICU units, mayors want to implement more rigid restrictions and limit access to the capital where many of their residents work. (AP PhotoEraldo Peres)

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SALEM, Ore. - Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended Oregon’s declaration of a state of emergency until May 2 as confirmed COVID-19 cases drop but hundreds of new cases continue to be reported daily.

The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday reported 553 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 154,554. The state’s death toll is 2,204.

A woman places a flower in a wreath to honor senior citizens who have died from COVID-19 at Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center during a protest Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Los Angeles. A caravan of drivers protested the move of seniors from Sakura Intermediate Care Facility, which has a 0% COVID-19 infection rate, to Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center. (AP PhotoAshley Landis)

The agency’s weekly COVID-19 report, which was released Wednesday, shows a sharp decreases in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week. The health authority reported a 35% decrease in cases and a 42% decrease in hospitalization.

The emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the governor has issued, including her orders surrounding reopening Oregon, childcare, schools and higher education operations.

Oregon Republican state senators refused to show up to Thursday’s floor session, objecting to the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions and handling of reopening schools, vaccine rollout and economic recovery.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday said none of the state’s regions will revert back to more restrictive COVID-19 requirements under the state’s economic reopening plan.

Inslee announced the pause in potential rollbacks amid dropping case counts across the state. While all 39 counties are currently in the second phase of the plan — which includes limited indoor dining at restaurants — the governor has yet to provide information about what subsequent phases might look like.

Last month, Inslee announced that regions had to meet three of four metrics in order to advance and to stay in Phase 2: a 10% decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period; a 10% decrease in coronavirus hospital admission rates in that same timeframe; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%.

In the second phase, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity, and indoor fitness center can open with the same limit.

Sports competitions can resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their number of guests.

SAO PAULO — On the same day Brazil reached the grim milestone of 250,000 deaths by COVID-19, the country’s health ministry signed a deal with Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech for the purchase of 20 million doses of the Covaxin vaccine, which is yet to be approved by local regulators.

The administration of President Jair Bolsonaro said the first 8 million Covaxin shots, which will be made by Brazilian company Precisa Medicamentos, will arrive in March. A second batch of another 8 million doses is expected for April and in May, another 4 million doses will be available.

So far Brazil has vaccinated less than 4% of its population of 210 million people, with some cities stopping immunization campaigns last week due to shortages.

Neither Precisa nor Bharat confirmed the deal or the delivery dates.

HELENA, Mont. -- The Montana House failed Thursday to advance a bill that would ban discrimination based on vaccination status and prohibit the use of vaccination status to grant or deny services or access to businesses.

The Republican-controlled House split on the bill in a 50-50 vote, with several Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the measure.

Under the bill, employers — including health care facilities — would have been banned from mandating vaccinations as a condition for employment. Public schools and child care facilities would be required to allow for medical and religious exemptions for all vaccination requirements.

The bill’s supporters say it would protect freedom and privacy regarding medical choices. Opponents say mandatory vaccinations ensure the health of children and prevent disease outbreaks.

The bill would also have prohibited the use of vaccine passports — or documents that prove an individual’s vaccination status.

Vaccine passports have not been implemented in Montana or by the U.S. federal government. They are being considered by several countries and airlines to allow those inoculated against COVID-19 to travel internationally.

WATERBURY, Conn. - Connecticut school districts around the state have begun organizing their own COVID-19 vaccination clinics, preparing for the official rollout of vaccines for teachers and other school staff on Monday.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said a special vaccination appointment hotline for the roughly 4,000 eligible workers in his city’s school system will become available on Friday morning. He said there will be a special section at the mass vaccination clinic at Waterbury Arts Magnet School just for those employees.

“We’re going to get you done very, very quickly,” O’Leary said. “We are very excited to get you in, get your your shot, schedule your second shot. Let’s go.”

Waterbury is distributing the hotline number of school employees via email.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who appeared with the Democratic mayor and local officials at a news conference on Thursday, said Waterbury is the first school district in the state that has said it’s ready to begin vaccinations for teachers and other employees at public and private schools. He said he expects other will soon follow. Residents age 55 and older will be allowed to register for vaccination appointments on Monday as well.