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The Africa director for the World Health Organization has sharply criticized the decisions by some richer countries to roll out COVID-19 booster shots.

Matshidiso Moeti told journalists on Thursday that the decisions “threaten the promise of a brighter tomorrow for Africa.”

“As some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery of vaccine equity,” Moeti said.

African health officials, including the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had warned against booster shots in recent weeks as less than two per cent of the African continent’s population of 1.3 billion people is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Moeti noted that the latest resurgence in confirmed coronavirus cases across Africa is levelling off but that “Africa is encountering headwinds” as rich countries like the United States decide to roll out booster shots.

The situation in Africa remains “very fragile” as the more infectious delta variant is now dominant in most of the continent’s 54 countries, she said. More than 7.3 million cases, including more than 186,000 deaths, have been confirmed across the continent during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, South Africa will open up COVID-19 vaccinations to those between 18 and 35 years old from Friday, the government said in a statement Thursday, as it tries to ramp up its immunization drive.

The country has recorded the most coronavirus infections and deaths on the African continent, but it has so far only fully vaccinated less than eight per cent of its population of 60 million.

South Africa’s vaccination campaign started slowly due to a mix of bureaucratic failures, bad luck and onerous negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. The first vaccine doses were given to health-care workers in a research study from mid-February, before the elderly were vaccinated from mid-May.

From Aug. 1 those aged 35 years and over became eligible to receive a vaccine.

The government has set a target of reaching at least 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a day by the end of this month, but in the latest 24-hour period it managed just 195,000, according to a health department website.

– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada WATCH | How Elections Canada plans to make voting safe during pandemic: Elections Canada lays out plans for voting during pandemicElections Canada laid out how it plans to make the federal election safe during the COVID-19 pandemic including precautions at polling stations and how to access mail-in ballots. 1:53 What’s happening around the world People wear masks as they shop at Pak’nSave supermarket in Albany after mandatory mask use took effect for entry to essential services in Auckland, New Zealand, on Thursday. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 209.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at nearly 4.4 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand will now allow youths aged 12 to 15 to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Previously, only those aged 16 and over were eligible. The government announcement Thursday came as the country remains in a strict lockdown as it deals with a new outbreak of the delta variant.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were 11 new infections, bringing the total in the outbreak to 21. She said the outbreak had been linked to a passenger who returned from Sydney earlier this month.

In Europe, thousands of people took to the streets of Latvia’s capital of Riga late Wednesday to protest mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. The Baltic News Service, the region’s main news agency, said the number of people exceeded the maximum allowed for public protests, people did not observe distance and many didn’t wear face masks.

People gather in front of the government building during a protest against the government’s vaccination policies in Riga, Latvia, on Wednesday. The sign reads, ‘Stop forced vaccination.’ (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

In Africa, Tunisia will relax its nightly curfew and cafés and restaurants will be allowed to remain open until 10 p.m., as part of an easing of pandemic restrictions.

In the Middle East, a third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was found to be 86 per cent effective in people aged over 60, an Israeli health-care provider said on Wednesday, citing initial results from a study of thousands of members.

Israeli HMO Maccabi, which covers around a quarter of the country’s 9.3 million population, compared results from 149,144 people aged over 60 who received their third dose at least a week ago against those from 675,630 more who had received only two doses, between January and February.

Some 37 people tested positive for coronavirus after their third jab, compared with 1,064 positive cases among those who had received only two doses, Maccabi said in a statement. The comparison groups had similar demographic profiles, it said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett looks on as Jawad Masarwa, the local imam of Taibeh, receives a vaccine jab during Bennett’s visit to the COVID-19 vaccination centre at the Atid al-Najah High School for the Sciences in Taibeh, northern Israel, on Thursday. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Americas, Mexico is set to receive the first batch of 1.75 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from the United States this weekend, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Wednesday, shortly after Mexico authorized its emergency use.

The Mexican government last week said that U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris had promised to send 3.5 million Moderna and five million AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. The country on Wednesday posted a record 28,953 new confirmed infections.

– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

Source From CBC News

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