Tuesday morning news – March 16, 2021

CDC encouraged by vaccination study » CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she’s encouraged by the results of a new study on vaccinations showing that Americans are following through with their treatments.  

WALENSKY: A new CDC-MMWR published today found that the vast majority of people [are] getting both doses of these vaccines within the recommended timeframes. Only about 3 percent missed their second dose. 

The study looked at nearly 13 million people from mid-December to mid-February. 

The Biden administration says it’s also encouraged by the pace of the rollout. White House COVID-19 response team senior advisor Andy Slavitt:

SLAVITT: Over the last seven days, we’re not averaging 2.4 million shots per day. 

Still just over 11 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. But the White House says it’s on track to reach its goal of making vaccines available to all by the end of May. 

Major European nations suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine » Several countries in Europe are halting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, at least temporarily, over reports of dangerous blood clots. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Germany, France and Italy on Monday became the latest countries to suspend use of the vaccine. The countries called the move a precautionary measure. 

Regulators in Italy announced their temporary ban, less than 24 hours after saying the “alarm” over the vaccine “wasn’t justified.”

AstraZeneca said on its website that there have been 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the EU. The drugmaker said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of clots.

Still, regulators in the EU have called a meeting for Thursday to review experts’ findings and decide whether further action is needed. 

AstraZeneca’s formula is just one of three vaccines in use on the continent. But the move amounts to another setback for the European Union’s vaccine rollout. Their vaccination program has been plagued by supply shortages and other problems and is lagging well behind the campaigns in Britain and the U.S.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown. 

Biden taps economist to oversee COVID-19 relief package » President Biden has tapped economist Gene Sperling to oversee the implementation of his $1.9 trillion relief package. 

BIDEN: Gene will be on the phone with mayors and governors, red states, blue states, a source of constant communication, a source of guidance and support, and above all, a source of accountability.

Sperling served as an adviser in the Clinton and Obama administrations. He will lead the effort to supervise the distribution of funds from the massive spending bill. 

The White House said Sperling will be coordinating with officials such as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who will soon hold a summit on releasing the $130 billion dedicated to K-12 education.

Meantime, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses have embarked on a cross-country campaign this week to sell the relief plan to the public. 

The president is calling it the “Help is here” tour. Harris kicked it off with a trip to a vaccination site in Las Vegas. Biden will hit the road today, beginning with a stop in Pennsylvania. 

Vatican: No gay union blessings » The Vatican declared on Monday that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Pope Francis approved a two-page document that explained God “cannot bless sin.” The Vatican’s orthodoxy office on Monday formally responded to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless same-sex unions. 

An accompanying article said any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman contradicts God’s design. But it said the church may bless individuals “with homosexual inclinations who manifest the will to live in fidelity.”

In a 2019 interview, Francis said “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.”

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Myanmar’s ruling junta declares martial law » Myanmar’s ruling junta has declared martial law in much of the country’s largest city. That followed another military crackdown over the weekend on pro-democracy demonstrators. 

AUDIO: [Sound of protests]

Security forces killed more than 50 protesters in a series of clashes Saturday and Sunday. 

Reports of more violence followed on Monday. The independent broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma said security forces killed at least eight protesters in four cities or towns.

The United Nations said at least 138 peaceful protesters have died in Myanmar since the Feb. 1st military coup.

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File) In this Monday, March 8, 2021 file photo a health worker shows the media how she prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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