Britain is offering a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine to up to half a million people who have severely weakened immune systems to give them additional protection.
The government’s vaccine advisers say people over 12 years old with conditions such as leukemia, advanced HIV and recent organ transplants will be offered a third jab.
Prof. Wei Shen Lim of the official Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunization says the move aims to reduce the risks of hospitalization and death for the severely immunosuppressed, a population estimated at 400,000 to 500,000 people, or less than one per cent of the total population.
The offer is separate to decisions on a wider vaccine booster program, details of which haven’t been confirmed. Health Secretary Sajid Javid says that booster program, which prioritizes older age groups, is still planned to start this month.
More than 78 per cent of Britain’s population over age 16 have received both doses of the vaccine. The government’s vaccine advisory committee hasn’t decided whether to include all healthy teens age 12 to 15.
The head of the World Health Organization says he opposes “widespread use of boosters” for healthy people for now, underscoring the need to get doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to poorer countries.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking in Berlin on Wednesday, said the UN health agency last week witnessed the first decline in new global cases in more than two months. He said that “this is obviously very welcome but it doesn’t mean much,” since many countries are still seeing steep increases and “shocking inequities” in access to vaccines.
Tedros said he is calling for a moratorium on booster shots at least until the end of September “to allow those countries that are furthest behind to catch up.” He said “third doses may be necessary for the most at-risk populations, where there is evidence of waning immunity against severe disease and death.”
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 218.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.5 million.
In the Americas, COVID-19 vaccines developed by Cuba do not have emergency use authorization from the World Health Organization and cannot be bought for countries in the Americas, the WHO’s regional health branch said.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Moderna Inc. and its Japanese partner are recalling more than one million doses of the U.S. drug maker’s coronavirus vaccine after confirming that contamination reported last week was tiny particles of stainless steel.
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. is in charge of sale and distribution in Japan of the Moderna vaccine. The two companies said an investigation at a Spanish factory that produced the vials in question concluded the contamination occurred in the process of putting stops on the vials.
In Europe, Spain has reached its initial goal of fully vaccinating 70 per cent of its population for the coronavirus, according to the health ministry. Despite a slow rollout of vaccines at the start of the year, Spain’s public health-care system has fully vaccinated more than 33 million people. Over 92 per cent of those over 40 years old are fully covered.
In Africa, the African Union’s COVID-19 envoy says vaccine doses produced by a plant in South Africa will no longer be exported to Europe after the intervention of South Africa’s government.
Strive Masiyiwa told reporters Thursday that South African drug manufacturer Aspen, which has a contract with Johnson & Johnson to assemble the ingredients of its COVID-19 vaccine, will no longer ship vaccine doses out of the continent and that millions of doses warehoused in Europe will be returned to the continent.
“That arrangement has been suspended,” he said, noting that J&J doses produced in South Africa “will stay in Africa and will be distributed in Africa.”
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 33,170 new cases of COVID-19 and 599 additional deaths.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:20 a.m. ET