In this Monday, May 24, 2021 file photo, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a bilateral meeting with Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset before signing a BioHub Initiative with a global COVID-19 Pathogen repository in Spiez laboratory on the sideline of the opening of the 74th World Health Assembly, WHA, at the WHO headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland. The head of the World Health Organization said at a press briefing on Friday, July 2 the world is currently in “a very dangerous period” of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the more contagious delta variant is identified in nearly 100 countries. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP, File)
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization called on drugmakers to prioritize supplying their COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries instead of lobbying rich countries to use even more doses, just as some pharmaceuticals are seeking authorization for a third dose to be used as a booster.
At a press briefing on Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the massive disparity in vaccines between rich and poor countries means that “we are making conscious choices right now not to protect those in need.” He said the priority now must be to vaccinate people who have received no doses.
Tedros called on Pfizer and Moderna to “go all out to supply COVAX, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and low and middle income countries with very little coverage,” referring to the U.N.-backed initiative to distribute vaccines globally. Both Pfizer and Moderna have agreed to supply small amounts of their vaccine to COVAX, but the vast majority of their doses have been reserved by rich countries.
Last week, Pfizer said it would seek authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying a booster shot could dramatically boost immunity and perhaps help ward off worrisome variants.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— US doses arrive as Nepal struggles to vaccinate population
— Explainer: How will the virus emergency affect the Olympics?
— UK’s Johnson set to confirm England unlocking will go ahead
— France’s Macron tries to slow delta variant, boost vaccine uptake
— Pfizer to discuss vaccine booster with US officials Monday
— South Africa ramps up vaccine drive, too late for this surge
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JERUSALEM — Israel has started dispensing third doses of the coronavirus vaccine to individuals with weakened immune systems.
The Health Ministry said in a statement Monday that in light of the rise in new infections in Israel, it was allowing the immunocompromised to receive a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Though much of the country is vaccinated, Israel has seen a steady increase in new cases of coronavirus in recent weeks. Most of the new cases are among children who are not eligible for the vaccine, and the government has pushed for teenagers to go get vaccinated. Most of the newly reported cases are mild.
Israel has vaccinated over 61% of its 9.3 million citizens with at least one dose and almost 56% with two doses, the vast majority with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, since launching its vaccination drive in December.
ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official said Monday that authorities might summon troops to ensure that people do not violate social distancing rules.
Faisal Sultan said any summoning of the troops will be part of the administrative measures which are being taken by the government to contain the spread of coronavirus.
However, he did not say exactly when the troops will be summoned to assist authorities in handling COVID-19 situation.
Sultan aid a partial lockdown will also be imposed in those high-risk areas where positivity rate from coronavirus was steadily increasing.
The COVID-19 positivity rate in Pakistan has increased from 2 to 4 percent in recent days.
Sultan made his comments at a news conference hours after Pakistan reported 1,808 new cases and 15 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
He urged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible because inoculation of population was the only way to overcome COVID-19 situation.
Pakistan has reported 22,597 deaths from coronavirus among a total of 975,092 confirmed cases since last year.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia set a new record of daily COVID-19 infections with 40,427 cases on Monday as the Southeast Asia country is continuing to receive international aids amid devastating wave of coronavirus.
Monday’s figures bring the total number of infections nationwide to more than 2,5 million, including 67,355 deaths, since the pandemic began. It was the first time daily COVID-19 cases surpassed 40,000 mark.
Given the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response, warned that Indonesia could face a worst-case scenario with 50,000 cases a day, “maybe even 60,000 to 70,000 per day at worst.” The next two weeks will be critical, he said.
Hospitals are swamped, with growing numbers of the ill dying in isolation at home or while waiting to receive emergency care. This situation has drawn sympathy of the international community, with countries were coming to a gasping Indonesia’s aid with medical supplies, equipment and COVID-19 vaccines.
Indonesia received a shipment of nearly 1 million AstraZeneca vaccines doses from Japan early this month, while more than 1,000 oxygen cylinders, concentrators, ventilators and other health devices arrived from Singapore last Friday, followed by another 1,000 ventilators from Australia.
About 3 million Moderna vaccine doses have arrived in Indonesia on Sunday and Japan pledged to send another 1 million vaccines doses later this week. The U.K., China, Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and even India, also have offered help, the foreign minister Retno Marsudi said Sunday.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Sweden announced Monday a new recommendation to Swedes who have been abroad on summer holiday: they should get a PCR test upon return if they have been outside the Nordic region.
It was announced Monday as some more recommendations, including the social distancing in gyms, shopping malls and museums, would be removed as of Thursday.
Since June 1, Sweden has gradually been easing corona restrictions. Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell said Monday he could not say when the remaining limitations, including the number of people in clubs and dance floors, would be removed.
Sweden has opted for a much-debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open. The Scandinavian country has stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response to the pandemic. It has not gone into lockdowns or closed businesses, relying instead on citizens’ sense of civic duty to control infections.
BANGKOK — Medical workers in Thailand who have received two doses of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine will be given a booster shot of AstraZeneca vaccine, Thai health authorities announced Monday.
Thailand is fighting a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases, and a nighttime curfew and other heightened measures began in Bangkok and several other provinces on Monday. The surge has been accompanied by the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the virus. A Thai Red Cross scientist, Dr. Thiravat Hemachudha, says Sinovac is less effective at fighting that variant.
The decision to provide AstraZeneca booster shots was made after a nurse who received two doses of Sinovac in May died last week, and more than 600 others who received Sinovac tested positive for COVID-19. Other Thais who have received only one dose of Sinovac will be able to get AstraZeneca for their second dose, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.
Thailand reported 8,656 new cases and 80 deaths on Monday, bringing its total since the pandemic began last year to 345,027 confirmed cases and 2,791 deaths. More than 90% of the cases and 95% of the deaths have occurred since the third surge began in early April.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to confirm that all remaining lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted in a week’s time while urging people to remain cautious amid a huge resurgence of the coronavirus.
Johnson is expected to say at a news conference that face masks and all social distancing measures will be lifted in England on July 19. But he is also set to downplay talk of “Freedom Day” given the sharp rise in new cases.
The U.K. as a whole has seen infections soar in recent weeks as a result of the delta variant. Daily infection levels are running at over 30,000, their highest rates since January.
Though the government has warned that daily case numbers will rise further, potentially hitting 100,000 at some point this summer, it is pressing on with the unlocking because of the rapid rollout of vaccines. As of Sunday, 87% of U.K. adults have received at least one vaccine dose while 66% have had two jabs.
WASHINGTON — Pfizer says it plans to meet with top U.S. health officials Monday to discuss the drugmaker’s request for federal authorization of a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser acknowledged that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that booster shots will be needed.
The company said it was scheduled to have the meeting with the Food and Drug Administration and other officials Monday, days after Pfizer asserted that booster shots would be needed within 12 months.
Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press last week that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier — evidence it believes supports the need for a booster.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t rule out the possibility but said it was too soon for the government to recommend another shot. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA did the right thing last week by pushing back against Pfizer’s assertion with their statement that they did not view booster shots as necessary “at this time.”
BEIJING — China’s two major COVID-19 vaccine makers have signed agreements to provide up to 550 million doses to COVAX, the U.N.-backed program that aims to deliver vaccines to poor countries and others that need them.
Gavi, the vaccine partnership playing a leading role in COVAX, announced that it would buy 110 million doses from Sinopharm and Sinovac between now and October. In addition, it has the option to buy 440 million more doses by mid-2022.
The World Health Organization has approved the companies’ vaccines for emergency use. Their inactivated vaccines are already in widespread use in China and in many other countries.
Inactivated vaccines are made with killed coronavirus. Most other COVID vaccines in use, particularly in the West, are made with newer technologies that target the “spike” protein that coats the surface of the virus.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s professional baseball league has suspended its regular season as the largely unvaccinated country grapples with the worst wave of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
The Korea Baseball Organization announced the decision following an emergency board meeting attended by the top executives of the league’s 10 teams. The decision postpones at least 30 games that were scheduled through Sunday before the league goes on a previously planned break through Aug. 9 during the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
The KBO said in a statement that it still hopes to maintain a 144-game regular season for each team and that the postponed games will be rescheduled for later in the year. The league plans to still hold its all-star game on July 24, but without spectators.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — A shipment of 1.5 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine donated by the United States has arrived in Nepal, which is struggling to inoculate its population against the coronavirus.
The health minister says the shipment of the single-dose vaccine, obtained through the U.N.-backed COVAX vaccine facility, will be given to people between the ages of 50 and 54.
Though situated between India and China, which are among the biggest producers of vaccines, Nepal has been struggling to obtain doses. It began its vaccination campaign in January, but less than 3% of its population has been fully inoculated. The campaign stalled after India was hit by a devastating coronavirus outbreak and cut off vaccine exports.
PARIS — Is France’s summer over already?
The country threw open its nightclubs only three days ago. That completed a protracted national reopening effort just in time for summer vacation.
But potential new restrictions loom with the delta variant now driving resurgent infections. President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a top-level virus security meeting and then giving a televised speech.
He’s expected to announce a law requiring health care workers to get vaccinated. He also may require special COVID-19 passes for restaurants or other day-to-day activities.
Any new measures are likely to be relatively mild for now. But they are aimed at reminding the French that the pandemic isn’t over yet.
TOKYO — A virus state of emergency has begun in Japan’s capital, as the number of new cases is climbing fast and hospital beds are starting to fill just 11 days ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The main target of the new state of emergency is alcohol served at bars and restaurants as authorities want people to stay home and watch the games on TV and not gather in public.
Like past emergencies, most of the measures are requests because the government lacks a legal basis to enforce hard lockdowns. The state of emergency will cover the entire duration of the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics and its main impact will be in barring fans from stadiums and arenas in the Tokyo area.
BEIJING — Mass testing in a Chinese city bordering Myanmar has found nine more COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 59 in a week-old outbreak involving the delta variant.
Authorities have locked down Ruili, blocking people from entering or leaving the city in Yunnan province and restricting residents in the urban area to their homes in a bid to contain the spread.
The latest confirmed cases include four Chinese and five Myanmar nationals, including an 11-year-old girl.
On the Myanmar side of the border, more than 250 people have tested positive in the city of Muse in June and July, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Sunday, citing an unnamed official.
Myanmar, in the midst of a severe outbreak, reported 3,461 new cases nationwide and 82 deaths in the latest 24-hour period.
DENPASAR, Indonesia — Indonesia has ordered four foreign tourists to leave the resort island of Bali after violating health protocols as the country endures a devastating wave of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths.
A justice ministry official in Bali says a Russian visitor escaped isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus. She was recaptured and will be deported when she recovers. Also, an American, an Irish citizen and a Russian were accused of defying mask mandates.
They were placed in a detention room at the immigration office while waiting for their flights to their countries later Monday.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Two Taiwanese high-tech companies have announced a donation of 10 million doses of anti-coronavirus vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech to the island’s government, which faces political obstacles in fighting the pandemic.
Taiwan’s health minister suggested in February that Beijing might have disrupted efforts to obtain vaccines for the island democracy, which the mainland’s ruling Communist Party has never controlled but claims as its territory.
A Chinese company, Fosun Pharma, owns BioNTech distribution rights for Greater China. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. and Hon Hai Precision Electronics said they would buy the vaccine through Fosun Pharma.
TSMC said doses would be shipped from a factory in Germany directly to Taiwan’s anti-disease agency.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases for the sixth straight day as the greater capital area entered stringent social distancing restrictions to slow transmissions.
The 1,100 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency were the highest ever for a Monday, when the daily increase is usually smaller because of reduced tests during the weekends.
More than 780 of the cases were from capital Seoul and nearby Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, areas where officials have enforced the country’s strongest social distancing measures starting Monday.
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