The latest:

Britain is rushing four million Pfizer-BioNTech doses to Australia, where authorities are scrambling to bolster supplies of that COVID-19 vaccine and protect the population against a rapidly spreading outbreak of the delta variant.

The swap deal announced Friday follows Australian deals with Singapore and Poland to address a short-term Pfizer shortage.

Australia was keen to make more vaccine deals with other governments, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“I said I would leave no stone unturned and I can tell you I’ve been turning over some stones in recent times to ensure that we can progress the vaccination program as quickly as we possibly can,” Morrison said. 

Australia has particularly low vaccination levels compared to other wealthy nations, with only 36 per cent of Australians aged 16 and older fully vaccinated.

The Australian government has been criticized for failing to strike more vaccine deals with manufacturers. Australia had planned to manufacture most of the vaccine for its 26 million people, including 20 million adults.

But one home-grown vaccine was abandoned during development because it produced false positive results to HIV tests. Locally produced AstraZeneca, which is the only alternative to Pfizer registered for use in Australia so far, proved unpopular with many due to changing medical advice on the risk of blood clots. Australia initially bought only 10 million Pfizer doses but has increased the order to 40 million shots this year.

The first of 10 million shots of the Moderna vaccine is expected to become available soon.

The need for vaccines comes as Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, on Friday reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with 12 fatalities and a record 1,431 new infections. The state government predicted the daily death toll will peak next month if the pace of vaccination is maintained.

A man reads a book as he queues at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Melbourne on Wednesday. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)

The state government plans to triple the number of intensive care unit beds and staff in October when the number of COVID-19 patients are expected to peak, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. She expects 70 per cent of the population aged 16 and older in her state will be fully vaccinated by mid-October.

The outbreak that began in Sydney in June has spread to Melbourne, Australia’s second-most populous city and the capital of Victoria state.

Victoria reported 208 new infections in the last 24 hours and a single death.

New South Wales and Victoria are in lockdown and see increased vaccinations as the only way to safely ease pandemic restrictions.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:55 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada WATCH | COVID-19: What do vaccinated people need to know as cases rise? COVID-19: What do vaccinated people need to know as cases rise?As COVID-19 cases increase in much of the country, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger discusses what vaccinated people need to be aware of and her biggest concerns going forward. 1:47 What’s happening around the world People wait for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Pamplona, in northern Spain. (Alvaro Barrientos/The Associated Press)

As of early Friday morning, more than 219 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.5 million.

In Europe, the European Union and coronavirus vaccine-maker AstraZeneca said Friday that they have clinched an agreement to end a damaging legal battle over the slow pace of deliveries of the Anglo-Swedish company’s shots.

In the Americas, U.S. states with high COVID-19 vaccination rates are protecting children from hospitalization, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Cases, emergency room visits and hospitalizations are much lower among children in communities with higher vaccination rates,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday at a White House briefing.

In August, the hospitalization rate among children was nearly four times higher in states with the lowest vaccine coverage compared to states with high coverage, Walensky said.

Dr. Delkhah Shahin talks to a COVID-19 patient at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, Calif. (Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images)

The hospitalization rate in unvaccinated adolescents was nearly 10 times higher in July than among fully vaccinated adolescents, Walensky said, citing a second study. Both papers are set to be published Friday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Children under age 12 are not yet eligible for the shots. Vaccination of adults and teens slows the spread of the virus in a community, making it less likely a child will catch it from someone close to them.

In Guatemala, officials have announced new national transport curbs and social restrictions to contain a surge of infections. Starting Saturday, auto transport will be prohibited for most trips from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. and social gatherings such as weddings and public sports events will be banned for at least four weeks.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Sri Lanka has begun vaccinating 20-somethings as it nears full vaccination of older people and struggles with a surge of delta variant infections.

In Africa, South Africa reported 9,203 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 418 additional deaths.

In the Middle East, health officials in Iran reported 30,279 new cases of COVID-19 and 595 additional deaths.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET

Source From CBC News

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