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Countries weigh need for booster COVID-19 shots

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COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be made widely available to Americans starting on Sept. 20, U.S. health officials said, citing data showing diminishing protection from the initial vaccinations as infections with the Delta variant rise.

In recent weeks several countries – including Israel, Germany and France – have decided to offer booster shots to older adults and people with weak immune systems. European Union officials said they do not yet see a need to give booster shots to the general population.

As of yet, there is no consensus among scientists and agencies that a third dose is necessary.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Aug. 18 that current data does not indicate a need for COVID-19 booster shots, adding that the most vulnerable people worldwide should be fully vaccinated before high-income countries deploy a top-up.

The following outlines the options countries and regions are considering on the issue:

UNITED STATES

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be made widely available from Sept. 20 to Americans who received their initial inoculation of two-dose COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and by Pfizer and BioNTech AG at least eight months earlier, U.S. health officials said on August 18.

EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union’s drugs regulator said on Aug. 6 there’s still not enough data to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

Recent supply contracts with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have included the potential for the bloc to buy booster shots.

AUSTRIA

Austria plans to start COVID-19 vaccine booster shots on Oct. 17, nine months after the first group of people to get the shots received their second dose.

BELGIUM

Belgium has authorised the use of boosters – specifically mRNA shots – for immunosuppressed people. More data is needed before considering extra shots for the elderly and people living in nursing homes.

BRITAIN

Britain has begun planning for a booster campaign starting later this year after top vaccine advisers said it might be necessary to give third shots to the elderly and most vulnerable from September. It said it would buy 60 million more doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine ahead of the possible booster programme, bringing its total order of the shot to 100 million doses.

BRAZIL

Brazilians should prepare for annual COVID-19 immunisations to reinforce vaccines, the head of public-sector laboratory Butantan said in May.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia started on Aug. 12 offering AstraZeneca booster shots to those who have received the inactivated virus vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Sinovac.

CANADA

The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering third COVID-19 vaccine doses to vulnerable people as early as this week, its chief medical officer said on Aug. 17.

CHILE

Chile began on Aug. 11 administering booster shots to those already inoculated with Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to lock in early success following one of the world’s fastest mass vaccination drives.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Some groups will probably need to get a third vaccine shot, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Aug. 17.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Dominican health authorities started distributing a voluntary third vaccine dose in early July.

ECUADOR

Ecuador will administer a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people with weak immune systems and will carry out tests to determine if the rest of the inoculated population also needs a booster, Health Minister Ximena Garzon said on Aug. 18.

FINLAND

It has not made a decision on the recommendation of a third dose but is expected to do so in August.

FRANCE

President Emmanuel Macron said France was working on rolling out third COVID-19 vaccine doses to the elderly and vulnerable from September.

GERMANY

Germany will in September start to offer a booster shot to vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those with weak immune systems. The shots will be mRNA-vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna regardless of what was used previously.

HUNGARY

Hungary has been offering an optional third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Aug. 1.

INDONESIA

Indonesia started giving booster shots produced by Moderna to medical workers in July and is considering extra doses for wider use.

ISRAEL

Israel in July started offering a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to people aged over 60 and to those over 50 from Aug. 13. It continues to administer extra doses to health workers.

RUSSIA

Health clinics in Moscow started offering booster shots in July to people vaccinated six months ago or more, making Russia one of the first countries to begin re-vaccination.

PHILLIPINES

The Philippines is allotting 45.3 billion pesos ($899 million) for COVID-19 booster shots under its 2022 budget, an official said on Aug. 19, even as health authorities have yet to conclude there is a need for a third dose.

SINGAPORE

Singapore said in May it was making plans for booster shots later this year or early next year, if necessary.

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea said in June it plans to secure more mRNA vaccines to use as boosters next year for its entire population of 52 million.

SLOVENIA

Slovenia will most probably start recommending a third vaccine dose, the head of the National advisory committee on immunization, Bojana Beovic, told the Slovenian national broadcaster on Aug. 18.

SWEDEN

The majority of Swedes will be offered a booster shot against COVID in 2022, while high risk groups could get a third shot this autumn, the health authority said on Aug. 3.

SWITZERLAND

Switzerland has ordered 43 million doses of vaccines, including preparations for potential booster shots in 2022, should they be needed, the Health Ministry said.

GULF STATES

The United Arab Emirates will start providing a booster shot to all fully vaccinated people. The shot will be available to people considered at high risk three months after their second vaccine dose, and six months for others.

In June, the UAE and Bahrain made the Pfizer vaccine available as a booster shot to those initially immunised with a vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm.

THAILAND

Thailand plans to give booster shots of imported mRNA vaccine to its front-line workers – who were given imported Sinovac before the locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine was available in June.

TURKEY

Turkey is allowing people who were inoculated with Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine to take an additional Pfizer dose, the health ministry said on Aug. 16.

URUGUAY

Uruguay offers a Pfizer dose for those fully vaccinated wth Sinovac’s Coronavac. https://bit.ly/37SFw5P

COMPANIES

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna on Aug. 13 for people with compromised immune systems.

Pfizer and BioNtech have submitted data to the FDA for COVID-19 vaccine booster authorization and plan to submit it as well to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and other regulatory authorities in the coming weeks.

Pfizer and Moderna have raised the prices of their COVID-19 vaccines in their latest EU supply contracts, the Financial Times reported on Aug. 1.

Moderna had earlier struck deals with Spain’s Rovi and Switzerland’s Lonza at a Dutch plant that would boost 50-microgram dose production – half the level of its original shots – in Europe to up to 600 million doses annually, with the capacity due to come on line this year.

On Aug. 5, Moderna said that its COVID-19 shot was about 93% effective four to six months after the second dose, showing hardly any change from the 94% efficacy reported in its original clinical trial.

It expects, however, a COVID-19 booster to be necessary prior to the winter season.

AstraZeneca said it was looking into how long the vaccine’s protection lasts and if a booster dose would be needed.

 

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris, Michael Erman in New York, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, John Miller in Zurich, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt, Miyoung Kim in Singapore, Alistair Smout in London, Essi Lehto in Helsinki, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Dagmarah Mackos, Pawel Goraj, Veronica Snoj in Gdansk; Editing by Josephine Mason, Barbara Lewis and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after nearly 3-year detention in China – CBC.ca

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Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are back on home soil, almost three years after they were first detained in China.

The two men landed in Calgary shortly before 8 a.m. ET Saturday aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force Challenger aircraft. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the airport to welcome the two men, who had flown from China along with ambassador Dominic Barton.

Trudeau announced Friday evening that the two were out of Chinese airspace, just hours after the extradition case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was dropped. Meng reached a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities related to fraud charges against her on Friday and landed back in China Saturday morning.

“These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal,” Trudeau said Friday. “For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance, resilience and grace.”

Kovrig, a diplomat, and Spavor, an entrepreneur who worked in North Korea and China, were first detained in December 2018 — just after Meng was arrested in Canada on behalf of U.S. authorities. Their detention is widely considered to be a retaliatory action in response to the Huawei executive’s arrest.

Chinese authorities had consistently denied that the cases were linked.

Spavor was found guilty of spying and sentenced to 11 years in prison and extradition by a Chinese court in August. The trial for Kovrig concluded in March, but he had not yet been sentenced.

Michael Spavor waves after landing in Calgary Saturday morning. He and Michael Kovrig returned home after being detained in China for nearly three years. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Timing shows clear link between cases, experts say

Speaking earlier in outside a Vancouver courthouse after her extradition case was dropped, Meng thanked the court and the Canadian government for “upholding the rule of law.”

“I’m also grateful to the Canadian people and media friends for your tolerance. Sorry for the inconvenience caused,” she said.

The timing of the releases of Meng, and Spavor and Kovrig, show China clearly saw a connection between the two, several diplomats and foreign policy experts told CBC News.

LISTEN | Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor freed:

CBC News: The House14:38Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor freed

What does Friday’s turn of events all mean for Canada’s relationship with China? Experts Colin Robertson, Guy Saint-Jacques and Lynette Ong join The House to discuss. 14:38

“China … up until now, has said that there’s been no linkage between the two, but by putting them on the plane [Friday night], they’ve clearly acknowledged that this was hostage-taking,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat for more than 30 years.

Robertson told CBC’s The House “it really was one for the other” in an exchange that was reminiscent of Cold War swaps.

“The timing, it’s totally undeniable that the two Michaels were unjustly detained because of the arrest of Ms. Meng in Vancouver,” Lynette Ong, a specialist on China at the Munk School of Global Affairs, told The House host Chris Hall.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou reads a statement outside the B.C. Supreme Court following the conclusion of her extradition hearing. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The rapid series of events Friday “was a surprise,” said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a senior fellow at Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

She noted Spavor and Kovrig’s detention had already sent a message to other countries “that if they cross China, then Beijing will just pick up a couple of their citizens and hold them hostage.

“And that’s a chilling message for other countries to be receiving today.”

Robertson said Canadians should give significant credit for the release of the men to U.S. President Joe Biden.

“As the prime minister said, this was the top issue in terms of Canada China relations, but also a top issue in Canada-U.S. relations,” he said. “President Biden has delivered now for Justin Trudeau.

Michael Kovrig and Dominic Barton reboard a plane at the Calgary airport, after Kovrig and Michael Spavor touched down on Canadian soil for the first time since they were detained in China nearly three years ago. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Changed relationship with China

Trudeau has said the return of the so-called two Michaels has been a top foreign policy priority for the government.

But the prime minister deflected questions Friday about how the return on the two men would affect Canada’s relationship with China.

Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, said it is impossible to ignore China, given its strength and importance in the world, but the approach should be “strategic” and “restrained.”

“The message to China is simple, it’s we have no problem with you being a superpower. But as long as you respect international treaties, international obligations and you don’t engage in bullying tactics,” he said.

Ong said she believes the relationship with China has been permanently damaged. She said public opinion in Canada has turned decisively against China and a return to normal would be “very hard” to execute.

“I don’t think Canada-China relations could actually be repaired. We’re living in an entirely different world now.”

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Canada COVID-19 booster update coming 'very shortly': Tam – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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Canadians can expect an update on the potential use of additional COVID-19 shots for the most at-risk “very shortly,” the country’s top doctor says.

Speaking at a news conference Friday morning, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters she expects the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make recommendations on whether or not additional doses for those at the highest risk are needed.

In particular, the committee is looking at those who received a COVID-19 vaccine around the beginning of the year, Tam added.

“So that includes, for example, those in long-term care homes or congregate living for seniors,” she said. “So I expect the committee to have their deliberations completed on this group … very shortly.”


Click to play video: 'Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot'



1:50
Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot


Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot

Tam did not elaborate on a timeline further, but her comments come after the United States approved booster shots for Americans aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk settings, like a workplace or congregate living.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the plan on Thursday, which is in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the extra shot earlier this week.

Pfizer-BioNTech is the vaccine of choice. The extra shots will also be rolled out in long-term care facilities and are open to more than 20 million Americans who received their second Pfizer shot more than six months ago.

Read more:
U.S. CDC overrules advisors, recommends COVID-19 boosters for all high-risk people

Tam said in addition to looking at American data on boosters, Canada has its own measures to follow as its vaccine approach is different.

“For example, while we use the mRNA vaccines that are the same as the United States, many Canadians actually had an extended interval compared to the United States, and what the data is showing us is that the extended interval produces a more robust immune response and vaccine effectiveness is better with a longer interval,” she said.

“So the Canadian data must be analyzed on top of what we’re gathering from the international community as well, and we are taking a thorough, thoughtful and phased approach to looking at additional doses.”

Read more:
NACI backs 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised

Canada has already OK’d additional doses for some immunocompromised individuals, announcing the new measure on Sept. 10.

“NACI continues to examine the need for booster doses, which unlike additional doses are intended to restore initially adequate immune protection that may have waned over time,” Tam said at the time.

Booster shots, however, continue to be a divisive issue among health experts and internationally.

Read more:
COVID-19 vaccine inequity now top of mind at United Nations meeting

Vaccine inequity was among the agenda items at the United Nations’ annual meeting this week. The leaders of many African countries, whose populations have little to no access to the shots, spoke out.

It is “of great concern” that the global community has not supported the principles “of solidarity and co-operation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, said.

“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 per cent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one per cent has gone to low-income countries.”


Click to play video: 'U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines'



0:47
U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines


U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

On Wednesday during a global COVID-19 summit, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would double its purchase of Pfizer’s shots to share one billion doses with the world, in an effort to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population within the next year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was also in attendance, committed to that goal.

“In order to get this done, Canada will build on the important progress we have made so far, and focus on increasing the production, availability, and delivery of vaccines,” a read-out of the summit said.

“To date, Canada has contributed more than $2.5 billion to help address this crisis globally. We have also committed to sharing tens of millions of vaccine doses with the rest of the world, including through the COVAX facility.”

Tam said on Friday that more than 80 per cent of Canada’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Johns Hopkins University, 32.71 per cent of the world’s population is fully inoculated.

Earlier this month, University of Toronto bioethics professor Kerry Bowman told Global News that Canada needs to fight the pandemic with a global approach.

“Booster shots may well be required for immunocompromised people and a subset of people, (but) I think in the short term, we should not have widespread booster shots — meaning third doses — at all, for ethical reasons and epidemiological reasons,” he said.

“We really have to start making a deeper commitment to the larger world to protect ourselves and because it’s the right thing to do.”

–with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

New Brunswick has reinstated its COVID-19 state of emergency as the province’s chief medical officer of health warned the province is at a “tipping point.”

“The pace of the fourth wave is beyond what we had anticipated,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell at a briefing Friday as the province reported a single-day record of 78 new cases and three additional deaths.

As part of the mandatory order, which will take effect at 11:59 p.m. AT Friday, residents must stick to their household bubbles and a “steady 20” of close contacts.

The order will be reviewed every two weeks and come into effect whenever there are 25 people hospitalized with COVID-19, said Premier Blaine Higgs. The number of people hospitalized currently stands at 31, including 15 in intensive care, he said.

Dr. Gordon Dow, infectious disease specialist with the Horizon Health Network, said the lifting of health-protection measures almost two months ago was an error.

“Many other jurisdictions made the very same mistake,” he said at a technical briefing earlier Friday, citing Alberta, Saskatchewan, the U.S. and the U.K.

WATCH | Lifting restrictions was a mistake, N.B. official says: 

‘That was not the right decision to make’

9 hours ago

One of the province’s top infectious disease specialists says lifting restrictions at the end of July was a mistake. 1:39

Dow said the province’s previous efforts to combat the virus focused on a successful “elimination strategy” that was used to rapidly shut down seven distinct outbreaks. But the province wasn’t ready for the delta variant, he said.

“Did we under-call this one? I would say yes, and I think most New Brunswickers would agree with that,” he said. “But I would also say that we got it right 85 per cent of the time.”

Meanwhile, Ontario is easing capacity limits at certain venues where proof of vaccination is required, including sports facilities, cinemas and concert venues.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says the province’s COVID-19 cases and health indicators have been stable recently, though it doesn’t mean the province can let its guard down in the face of the delta variant.

Ontario on Friday reported 727 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. There are 193 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19.

— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Tam is asked to advise parents considering vaccinating children against COVID: 

Tam is asked to advise parents considering COVID-19 vaccines for children

10 hours ago

A reporter asks Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, for her advice to parents considering vaccinating their children once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to those younger than 12. 4:01

Canada’s chief public health officer says the country is seeing about 4,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day, up from about 3,500 per day three weeks ago.

The bulk of cases and severe outcomes are among the unvaccinated, Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news briefing Friday.

From early August to early September, the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 was 11 times higher in those who were unvaccinated than in fully vaccinated people, she said, while hospitalization was 38 times higher.

While more than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, more than six million people still have not received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Tam said.

— From The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A woman wearing a mask sits near an open-air café, which has been cordoned off, in Seoul on Friday. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

As of Friday afternoon, more than 230.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as people returned from the country’s biggest holiday of the year.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 1,750 of the 2,434 new cases reported Friday were from the greater capital area, where officials have raised concern over an erosion in citizen vigilance despite the enforcement of the strongest physical distancing rules short of a lockdown since July.

In the Americas, a live televised interview with U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris was slightly delayed Friday after two hosts of the The View learned they tested positive for the coronavirus just before she was to join them on the set.

Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro were at the table for the start of the show, but were pulled from the set. Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York.

In Europe, Portugal is scrapping many of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions after becoming the world leader in vaccination rollout. The country has fully vaccinated nearly 85 per cent of the population, according to Our World in Data.

The government says starting Oct. 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in cafés and restaurants, at weddings and baptisms, shopping malls, concerts and cinemas. Bars and discos will reopen, although only for vaccinated people and people with negative coronavirus tests.

Meanwhile, Norway’s government says the country will reopen society on Saturday, ending pandemic-curbing restrictions that have limited social interaction and hobbled many businesses.

“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime …. Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, left, is hugged by the country’s Health Minister Bent Hoie as they provide an update about the COVID-19 situation in the country on Friday. (Javad Parsa/NTB/AFP/Getty Images)

The decision to no longer require physical distancing will allow culture and sports venues to utilize their full capacity, rather than just a portion of seats, while restaurants can fill up and nightclubs reopen.

About 76 per cent of all Norwegians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 67 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Institute of Public Health.

In the Middle East, Yemen received its third batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, the health ministry said

In Africa, Egypt has authorized Russia’s single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the shot abroad, said on Friday. The country approved Russia’s two-dose Sputnik V vaccine in February.

— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

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