The Latest: WHO chief wants moratorium on booster shots
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is calling on rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says he was “appalled” at comments by pharmaceutical manufacturers who say vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots and vaccinations in countries in dire need of shots but facing shortages.
The WHO chief says, “I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
Tedros had previously called for a “moratorium” on booster shots through the end of September, but the United States and other countries have begun or are considering plans to offer them to their vulnerable people.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Vaccine alliance expects to ship 1.4B doses by end of year, down from 2B
— Germany ICU coronavirus patients double in 2 weeks
— Bulgaria, EU’s least vaccinated nation, faces deadly surge of infections
— Idaho hospitals begin rationing health care amid COVID surge
— Read AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — Some 300,000 people in France have signed up to receive a third COVID-19 vaccine shot since the government started offering them a week ago.
Prime Minister Jean Castex says France will start a booster shot program in nursing homes next week.
While some health officials have argued against booster shots until more of the world is vaccinated, France is recommending people with pre-existing health problems and those over 65 receive a third shot six months after their second dose.
According to French government statistics, 88% of people 65 and above are fully vaccinated. Across all age groups, 68% are fully vaccinated and 73% have had at least one dose.
The European Union’s infectious diseases agency last week played down the need for booster shoots, urging countries to push ahead with their primary coronavirus vaccination programs.
France’s fourth surge of infections has been receding in recent weeks as the government has stepped up vaccination efforts.
GENEVA — The U.N.-backed program to get vaccines to the neediest people in the world has again scaled back its target to ship doses this year, projecting about 1.4 billion doses will available through by the end of the year.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says the COVAX program that it runs has faced setbacks. Those include export restrictions from hard-hit India, a key producer of vaccines, as well as regulatory hurdles for some vaccine candidates and manufacturing troubles elsewhere.
Still, Gavi says COVAX deliveries are ramping up significantly and another 1.1 billion doses are expected to become available beyond the 330 million doses it has already delivered. Most of the 1.4 billion doses are destined for the poorest developing countries.
Gavi had originally projected 2 billion doses could be shipped through COVAX this year, then in July lowered that projection to about 1.8 billion. Rich countries and others with vaccine production capabilities like Russia and China have already shipped billions of doses to their people, and the World Health Organization has repeatedly insisted that poor countries and health care workers in some places need better access to help stop new variants from emerging.
A top pharmaceutical industry association on Tuesday projected 12 billion doses will be produced this year. However, WHO officials say many are not being shipped where they are needed most.
BANGKOK — A medical research institute in Thailand on Wednesday opened registrations for schools to get COVID-19 vaccinations for students ages 10 to 18.
The Chulabhorn Royal Academy announced on its Facebook page it would vaccinate up to 50,000 children with China’s Sinopharm vaccine starting Sept. 20. Bangkok’s city government previously announced it will allow children 12 to 18 with underlying medical conditions to receive the Pfizer vaccine starting Sept. 21, ahead of the upcoming school year.
A campaign to combat a third wave of the coronavirus has resulted in more than 90% of Bangkok residents receiving at least one vaccine dose and 22% receiving two.
A mobile vaccination unit converted from an old bus was deployed for the first time Wednesday to bring shots to people unwilling or unable to travel to fixed venues to get inoculated. It serves mostly residents with mobility issues or whose jobs that make it inconvenient to travel to vaccination centers.
Some 100 people in western Bangkok received the AstraZeneca vaccine during the inaugural 45-minute mission.
Health authorities reported 14,176 confirmed cases and 228 confirmed deaths on Wednesday. There have been 1.3 million cases and 13,511 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Official Norwegian figures show 54% of coronavirus cases among children between ages 6 to 12, saying children and young people have the most reported cases of infection among the population.
Norway has offered school children between 12 to 15 one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. The shot in Norway is voluntary and free.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health says 89% of those over 18 had received their first shot and 77% had the second shot. For teens ages 16 to 17, the figures were 56% and 11%, and those 12 to 15, 3% and 0.4%, respectively.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has removed the United Arab Emirates from its COVID-19 banned list after two months, a ban that fueled tension between the neighbors.
The official Saudi Press Agency says starting Wednesday, Saudi citizens can travel to the UAE, among other destinations previously branded as red zones because of their high levels of infection. Those who violated the restrictions faced a three-year travel ban from the kingdom.
Although Saudi officials had attributed the July flight ban on the UAE to a surge in coronavirus cases, the move came as economic competition and political friction emerged between the Gulf Arab heavyweights, injecting uncertainty into their long-standing alliance.
The end of the flight ban comes just weeks ahead of 2020 World Expo held in Dubai, which was pushed back a year because of the pandemic.
Despite the coronavirus, the UAE is counting on Expo to draw millions of visitors and billions of dollars to stimulate the economy and showcase its achievements on the world stage. Dubai expects an influx of Saudi tourists for the massive in-person event, with Saudi Arabia due to have one of the Expo’s largest pavilions.
BERLIN — The head of Germany’s disease control agency says the vaccination rate needs to increase to avoid another wave of the coronavirus, warning “the pandemic is not over yet.”
Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute says Germany could experience another wave in cases in the fall, with the potential of overwhelming the country’s health system. On Wednesday, the institute reported 13,565 confirmed cases.
While infection rates have been stagnant in recent days, the number of hospitalizations has increased in Germany. The number of patients in intensive care has almost doubled to more than 1,300 in the last two weeks, Wieler says.
Most hospital patients are younger than early in the pandemic and the majority aren’t vaccinated. Wieler says everyone who doesn’t get vaccinated likely will contract the virus at some point in the pandemic.
More than 61% of the population are fully vaccinated in Germany. That’s less than in several other European countries.
There’s been more than 4 million confirmed cases and 92,448 confirmed deaths in Germany since the start of the pandemic.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s parliament is expected to scrap the requirement to wear face masks outdoors whenever social distancing isn’t possible, but health officials say people should always carry a mask with them.
The Portuguese president and the country’s two main political parties say they want the requirement to end next Sunday, with the expiration of the temporary measure to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Almost 80% of Portugal’s target population of people over age 12 is fully vaccinated.
Portugal’s Director-General for Health, Graça Freitas, says in some outdoor situations, masks may still be needed. Those include large-scale events, during school breaks and in busy parts of a city.
The 14-day cumulative coronavirus case rate per 100,000 people is 276. Hospital officials say they’re comfortably coping with admissions from the virus.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported more than 2,000 new cases of the coronavirus, approaching a one-day record set last month, as officials expressed concern about an erosion in citizen vigilance amid prolonged pandemic restrictions.
The 2,050 cases reported Wednesday was the sixth time the daily increase reached over 2,000 in a span of a month, including a record 2,221 on Aug. 11.
The capital Seoul and the nearby metropolitan area have had the country’s toughest social distancing rules short of a lockdown for nine consecutive weeks. The measures force night clubs and churches to close and prohibits private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. unless the participants are fully vaccinated.
The Health Ministry said people’s exhaustion and frustration with virus restrictions are becoming an increasing challenge. Highway traffic, credit card usage and other indicators of activity and movement are all rising, said Park Hyang, a senior ministry official, during a briefing.
There’s concern that transmissions would worsen during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving that comes in two weeks.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina health officials are reporting 170 ongoing COVID-19 clusters in K-12 schools or child care settings.
The state health department says school districts that don’t require masks are seeing substantially more spread of the virus and hours of lost learning.
Union County Public Schools, the state’s sixth largest district, had about one in eight of its more than 41,000 students under quarantine as of Friday, after the district voted down a mask requirement last month. The more than 5,200 students were placed under quarantine after 337 pupils tested positive for the virus last week.
Meanwhile, the Wake County Public School System, where masks are mandatory and which is four times larger than Union County Public Schools, has less than a fourth the number of students quarantined. Data from the Wake County district shows less than 1,300 of its more than 161,000 pupils were quarantined last week.
The weekly report state health officials updated on Tuesday shows the Union Academy Charter School in Monroe has the worst cluster in North Carolina, with 111 cases, including 98 among children. About one in 20 of the charter school’s students were infected. Charter Day School in Brunswick County has the next highest cluster of 81 infected children.
ATLANTA — Another Georgia school district is switching to virtual learning, after three school bus employees died from COVID-19.
The 9,700-student Griffin-Spalding County school system made the announcement late Monday, citing a disruption in student transportation.
Districts across Georgia are struggling to line up enough drivers and monitors to keep buses running. In Savannah, some bus drivers staged a sickout for the second day on Tuesday after a similar protest Friday.
At least 210,000 Georgia students in 54 districts and charter networks have had their school schedules disrupted because of COVID-19. Some districts have taken days off, some shifted to every-other-day schedules and some sent home individual schools or grades. That’s more than 12% of Georgia’s 1.7 million public school students.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Georgia hospitals remains above 6,000, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.
More than 34,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported among Georgia children aged 5-17 in the two weeks ended Sept. 2, according to state data, with more than 125 infection clusters reported in K-12 schools.
SEATTLE — Fans attending most pro sporting events in Seattle will soon be required to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or that they’ve tested negative for the virus.
The NFL’s Seahawks, MLS’s Sounders, NHL’s Kraken and MLB’s Mariners, along with the University of Washington and Washington State University, all announced updated policies Tuesday for fans attending games this season.
The Seahawks will be the first to implement the requirements, starting with their Sept. 19 home opener against Tennessee. Fans will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test taken within 72 hours to be granted entry. Team president Chuck Arnold said the measures will allow for a full stadium while keeping the experience safe.
Washington will begin an identical verification process for fans with its Sept. 25 home game against California. The Sounders will begin with their Oct. 3 match against Colorado. Washington State said its verification process will begin in October.
The Mariners said fans should plan to provide proof of vaccination for any potential postseason games the team hosts. The team also said all front office, event staff and Mariners employees at team operated facilities in the U.S. must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4
While the other Seattle teams are permitting a negative test to gain entry, the Kraken will only allow vaccinated fans at games.
PARIS — French doctors and scientists are calling on authorities to take action against the insults and threats— including death threats — that they have frequently received during the coronavirus pandemic.
The doctors said they fear that someone from the world of conspiracy theories will take action, not just against them but against other medical professionals, and condemned the silence of authorities.
“It’s months that some of us are receiving, regularly, death threats. Be it via social networks … Twitter, email, by telephone, or by the post. We are targets,” said Jerome Marty, a physician who heads a union for doctors in private practice, UFMLS.
Some doctors like himself receive threats “several times a day,” he said, and some now have bodyguards.
“What we fear is not so much the threats to us personally,” Marty said. Their biggest fear is that “an anonymous doctor, an anonymous nurse, an anonymous scientist, the people fighting today in the face of the (COVID-19) crisis … will be assaulted by someone who takes action.”