The head of the World Health Organization has called for a two-month moratorium on administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines as a means of reducing global vaccine inequality and preventing the emergence of new coronavirus variants.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Hungary’s capital Monday that he was “really disappointed” with the scope of vaccine donations worldwide. He called on countries offering third vaccine doses to forward what they would use for booster shots to other countries so they can increase their vaccination coverage.
Those whose immune system is compromised should get a booster shot, though they represent only a small percentage of the population, he added.
The Unites States announced last week it plans to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available starting on Sept. 20 as infections rise from the coronavirus delta variant.
Tedros said that vaccine injustice and vaccine nationalism increase the risk of more contagious variants like the delta variant emerging.
.– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 211.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.4 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam’s largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, began a stricter lockdown on Monday in an attempt to curb its worst coronavirus outbreak, a day before U.S Vice-President Kamala Harris arrives in the country on a state visit. Since a wave of infections began at the end of April, Vietnam has reported 344,000 cases, with Ho Chi Minh City and neighbouring Binh Duong accounting for most of them.
Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam’s entire southern region have already been in lockdown since July, when the delta variant started to spread quickly.
New Zealand’s government, meanwhile, said it’s extending a strict nationwide lockdown until at least Friday as it tries to extinguish a growing coronavirus outbreak. The news came as health authorities reported 35 new local infections of the fast-spreading delta variant, the highest number of COVID-19 cases in New Zealand since April last year.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says lockdowns are not a sustainable way to live. He says states must open their borders once vaccination rates reach 80 per cent of the population aged 16 years and older.
In the Americas, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he wouldn’t be surprised if the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine comes soon and he expects that it will spur more vaccine mandates by schools and businesses.
Murthy said Sunday he didn’t want to get ahead of the FDA’s announcement but didn’t disagree it could happen this week. He cited a wealth of data showing Pfizer’s two-dose regimen is safe and effective.
Currently the vaccine is being distributed under the FDA’s emergency use authorization. Murthy said he believes that once the agency completes its full review and issues approval, more Americans will be persuaded to get the shots. He also anticipated more vaccine requirements, including for teachers and staff, describing mandates as a “reasonable” thing to do to create a safe environment for children and others.
Murthy said that given the highly transmissible delta variant, “We have got to take every step we can” when health and well-being is “on the line.” He spoke on CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week and Fox News Sunday.
In the Middle East, hard-hit Iran was still struggling with an uptick in COVID-19 cases and deaths, reporting on Monday that 610 additional people had died over 24 hours, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
Oman, meanwhile, will allow anyone holding a vaccine certificate to travel to the country from Sept. 1, the civil aviation authority said.
In Africa, South Africa reported 10,748 new cases of COVID-19 and 170 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths reported in the country to 79,421.
In Europe, Britain has agreed to buy 35 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, to be delivered from the second half of next year.
– From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8:50 a.m. ET