WASHINGTON — Black lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to donate 100 million more COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, where only 2% of the population is fully vaccinated and the death rate is the highest in the world.
“The longer it takes to vaccinate the world, the more variants we will see and the longer this pandemic will continue,” Reps. Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, California Democrats, wrote Biden on behalf of members of the influential Congressional Black Caucus.
The Biden administration’s recent call for already vaccinated Americans to get booster shots met with disapproval from many global health advocates.
In June, administration officials said the U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine for donation to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year. The U.S. has delivered about 20 million doses to African nations thus far, the lawmakers say.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— AP-NORC poll: Half of US workers favor vaccine, mask mandate in workplaces
— Zimbabwe opens COVID-19vaccines to those 14 and older
— Japan suspends use of 1.63M Moderna vaccines over contamination concerns
— Do you need a COVID-19 vaccine passport? More private venues, workplaces and governments require it
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
AUTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order banning any state or local mandates requiring people to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
He’s also calling on legislators to vote it into law during the current special session. The move comes as Texas reported the most COVID-19 patients in its hospitals since the start of the pandemic.
Nine counties, dozens of school districts and the city of El Paso have defied Abbott’s ban on mask mandates. Dallas County is the latest county to obtain a court order blocking its enforcement.
“Vaccine requirements and exemptions have historically been determined by the Legislature, and their involvement is particularly important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas,” Abbott said on the governor’s office website.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 79% of the 85,874 Texas intensive-care unit beds are full, about 30% with COVID-19 cases. Overall COVID-19 hospitalizations were a record 14,255 on Wednesday, beating the Jan. 11 record of 14,218 reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
LAGOS, Nigeria — The Africa director of the World Health Organization says the continent tripled its COVID-19 vaccination rate in the past week, helped by more donations of doses from developed countries.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti says 13 million doses were administered in the past week. Still only 2.4% of Africans are fully vaccinated, and WHO officials say getting that figure even to 10% remains “a very daunting task.”
Moeti says the continent had 248,000 new confirmed cases in the past week, with at least 28 countries seeing a surge in infections driven by the delta variant.
Africa will receive 117 million doses in the coming months, but an additional 34 million will be needed to reach the 10% vaccination target, she says.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said it’s “unconscionable” some countries are now offering booster shots “while so many people remain unprotected.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says 80% of people over age 12 have been vaccinated in Denmark.
”Thank you to the more than 4 million Danes who have accepted the offer to be vaccinated,” Heunicke wrote on Twitter. He called it a “new, grand vaccine milestone.”
Getting the shot in Denmark is voluntary, available to people 12 and older and free of charge.
This week, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said “everything points at no new nationwide shutdown will be necessary” because of the high vaccination rate in Denmark.
TIRANA, Albania — The Albanian government is calling on people to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of increased daily cases from the delta variant.
Prime Minister Edi Rama told university students and professors to get the shots in September before their school year starts a month later. If the numbers rise, “vaccination may turn obligatory for anyone entering the auditorium.”
The start of the school year for the pre-university schools was postponed for two weeks to the end of September.
Less than one-third of Albania’s 2.8 million population has been fully vaccinated.
Albania registered 844 cases on Wednesday, up from 10 cases per day on average a month ago. There were three confirmed deaths.
NEW YORK — Half of American workers are in favor of vaccine requirements at their workplaces.
It comes at a time when such mandates are gaining traction now that the government has given full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
That finding is from a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Overall, 47% of in-person workers are in favor, while 26% are opposed. That compares with 59% of remote workers in support of vaccine mandates for people working in person at their workplace.
The sentiment is similar for workplace mask mandates, with 50% of Americans working in person favoring them and 29% opposed.
About 6 in 10 college graduates, who are more likely to have jobs that can be done remotely, support both mask and vaccine mandates at their workplaces, compared with about 4 in 10 workers without college degrees.
Christopher Messick is an electrical engineer who is mostly working from home in Brunswick, Maryland. He wrote to his company’s human resources department to ask employees get vaccinated before they are recalled to the office.
“I don’t want sit an office for eight hours a day with someone who is not vaccinated,” said Messick, 41. “The people who are anti-vax, I see them as selfish.”
Some 73% of Black workers and 59% of Hispanic workers — who are more likely than white workers to work in front-line jobs — support mask mandates at their workplaces, compared with 42% of white workers. In addition, 53% of Black and Hispanic workers support vaccine mandates at their workplaces, along with 44% of white workers.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe is opening COVID-19 vaccinations to those 14 and older and only allowing fully vaccinated people to eat in restaurants.
Zimbabwe will start administering vaccines to teens between 14 and 17, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced. The country is already offering shots to those 18 and older. This makes Zimbabwe one of the first countries in Africa to extend vaccinations to children.
The nation is beginning to see a reduction in numbers of infections and deaths following a deadly resurgence, driven mainly by the delta variant. Schools will reopen on Aug. 30 for students scheduled to take exams to graduate from primary school, high school, or college, while the rest of the pupils will return to class on Sept. 6, the information minister said after a Cabinet meeting.
Restaurants can reopen for sit-in customers who show proof they are fully vaccinated, she said.
Close to 2.5 million Zimbabweans, about 16% of the population of 15 million, have received one dose, according to health ministry figures. More than 1.5 million people, or 10%, are fully vaccinated. Zimbabwe one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Africa, where less than 5% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people have received one dose.
TOKYO — Japan is suspending use of about 1.63 million doses of Moderna vaccine after contamination was found in some unused vials.
The health ministry says the contamination was reported at multiple vaccination sites. Some doses may have been administered but no adverse health effects have been reported. The doses were produced in Spain.
The Japanese distributor Takeda Pharmaceutical suspended the doses manufactured in the same production line as a precaution and asked Moderna to investigate the problem. The suspension raises the prospect of supply problems in Japan, which is relying on three foreign-developed vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca — for its COVID-19 inoculation campaign.
The health ministry and Takeda did not give details on the type of contamination or if the doses in question may have been distributed outside Japan.
About 43% of the Japanese population have been fully vaccinated, with daily doses of about 1 million.
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — The authoritarian president of Turkmenistan has dismissed a deputy prime minister and several other top officials and ordered authorities to toughen measures against infection.
Turkmenistan, which has not reported any coronavirus cases, has introduced a series of restrictive measures to prevent the infection and made vaccination mandatory for all starting from age 18.
Starting Monday, authorities in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation will close all shopping malls and order restaurants and cafes to only offer takeaway services. They requested all public sector organizations to check the vaccination certificates of their workers.
Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov fired a deputy prime minister in charged of health care along with chiefs of the state sanitary agency and the migration service over unspecified “serious flaws,” according to Thursday’s report in the official daily Neutral Turkmenistan.
Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, the president emphasized the need for a strict observance of disinfection measures. He ordered draft proposals to restrict public gatherings and tighten controls over public transportation.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong says domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines will be allowed to fly into the city starting Aug. 30, a move expected to ease a shortage of helpers in the city.
Hong Kong has approximately 370,000 domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines. Flights have been banned from both countries because they were considered high-risk for the coronavirus; under current arrangements, only fully-vaccinated Hong Kong residents from high-risk countries are allowed to enter the city.
Under the new arrangements, domestic helpers from Indonesia and Philippines must be fully vaccinated and have a working visa before they are allowed into Hong Kong. They must also quarantine for 21 days at a specific hotel, with the costs to be borne by their employers.
Hong Kong, with its entry restrictions and social distancing measures, has kept its reported COVID-19 cases to about 12,000, with just 212 confirmed deaths.
Indonesia has reported more than 4 million cases and the Philippines nearly 1.9 million.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — A Hungarian orchestra conductor received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot onstage during a free open-air concert in Budapest on Wednesday as part of an effort to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Budapest Festival Orchestra conductor Ivan Fischer removed his jacket to reveal a white dress shirt with a hole cut out of the sleeve. As he kept his baton moving and the orchestra played on, a doctor administered the shot, Fischer’s third dose, to applause from the crowd.
The carefully choreographed action was an attempt to “further raise awareness of the need for vaccination” in Hungary, the orchestra’s managing director, Orsolya Erdodi, said.
Hungary has enjoyed a comparative summer reprieve from the COVID-19 pandemic after a devastating spring, when the country for a time had the world’s highest number of virus deaths per capita.
While confirmed cases and deaths are down, the vaccination rate also has slowed dramatically. More than 32% of the Central European country’s adult population has not received a first shot amid vaccine hesitancy.
ATHENS, Greece — Workers at public hospitals in Greece have conducted a five-hour work stoppage to protest a government decision making vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for all health care workers in the public and private sector.
About 300 hospital workers rallied Thursday outside the health ministry in Athens to protest the measure that takes effect on Sept. 1. The government has made clear that no extension will be granted.
Those working in the public and private health care sector, and those working in care homes who have not received at least one dose of the vaccine by that date or who don’t have a certificate of recent recovery will be suspended from work. The public hospital workers’ union said that while it supports the vaccines, it opposes making them mandatory.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said those who were protesting against the measure were “small minorities.”
“They are in the opposite direction of the majority of Greek society, which wants to protect public health,” he said.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is raising the vaccination target he believes is needed to provide widespread protection against COVID-19 on the continent, citing the more infectious delta variant now present in 32 countries.
Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong told reporters on Thursday that health officials once estimated at least 60% of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion people needed to be vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity.
Nkengasong says he now thinks the proportion should be “in excess of 70% to 80%.” Even at that level, he said, “are we going to get to herd immunity? I doubt that notion is relevant anymore.”
Africa is well short of its original vaccination target as health officials criticize richer countries for hoarding doses and rolling out booster shots while people in poorer nations are still awaiting vaccines. .
Only 2.5% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated now, and 93 million doses have been administered. The Africa CDC has estimated that perhaps just 30% of Africa’s population can be vaccinated by the end of the year.
“Things will get more challenging before they get better,” Nkengasong said.
PARIS — France’s prime minister has announced plans to give COVID-19 booster shots to people over age 65 and individuals living in nursing homes starting next month.
Prime Minister Jean Castex, speaking Thursday on French radio RTL, said the booster shot is needed because vaccine effectiveness decreases over time.
Castex said the eligible older people will be able to make appointments to get the shots and a booster vaccine drive will start on Sept. 12 in nursing homes.
France’s health authority, the HAS, recommended this week administering a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions at least six month after they received their second shot.
The HAS said those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab should be offered a Pfizer or Moderna shot at least four weeks after they first got vaccinated.
Over 47 million people in France, or 71.2% of the population, have received at least one vaccine shot. More than 42 million, or 62.8%, are fully vaccinated.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A top health official in Norway says the Scandinavian country is experiencing its fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Norway reported 1,294 new confirmed cases in 24 hours, a record number and 682 more than the same day a week ago, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported Thursday.
Espen Rostrup Nakstad, the deputy head of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that vaccinations against COVID-19 were keeping hospitalizations down during the current outbreak.
More than half of Norway’s population of 5.3 million, or 51%, has been vaccinated against the virus.
SYDNEY — Authorities in Australia’s New South Wales state say they will ease pandemic restrictions for vaccinated adults next month even as they are reporting a record 1,029 coronavirus infections and three deaths from COVID-19.
The record reported Thursday surpassed the previous high for a 24-hour period of 919 infections just a day earlier.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the slight easing of restrictions is coming because the state reached 6 million vaccine doses in a population of 8.2 million.
Beginning Sept. 13, families in the highest-risk parts of Sydney will be allowed to leave their homes for an hour of recreation as long as any adults are fully vaccinated. The recreation hour is in addition to the hour people are already allowed out to exercise.
Elsewhere in the state, groups of five will be allowed to congregate as long as all adults are fully vaccinated.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has reported 68 new community cases of the coronavirus, the largest daily increase since April of last year as an outbreak of the delta variant continues to grow.
The government put the nation into a strict lockdown last week as it tries to stamp out the outbreak, which has grown to a total of 277 infections.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday that she is confident the lockdown is working and new cases will soon begin to drop.
Also on Thursday, national carrier Air New Zealand reported an annual loss of 440 million New Zealand dollars, or about $306 million U.S., after revenue dropped nearly 50% due to the pandemic-induced plunge in international travel.