The Latest: South African firm to produce Pfizer vaccine

JOHANNESBURG — A South African firm will begin producing the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the first time the shot will be produced in Africa, Pfizer announced Wednesday.

The Biovac Institute based in Cape Town will manufacture the vaccine for distribution across Africa, a move that should help address the continent’s desperate need for more vaccine doses amid a recent surge of cases.

Biovac will receive large batch ingredients for the vaccine from Europe and will blend the components, put them in vials and package them for distribution. The production will begin in 2022 with a goal of reaching more than 100 million finished doses annually. Biovac’s production of doses will be distributed among the 54 countries of Africa.

The development is “a critical step” in increasing African’s access to an effective COVID-19 vaccine, Biovac chief executive Dr. Morena Makhoana said.

Pfizer’s goal is to provide access to its vaccine to people everywhere, CEO Albert Bourla said. But the vast majority of its vaccine doses have been sold in bilateral deals to rich countries and only a small amount was made available to the U.N.-backed effort to share COVID-19 vaccines.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Tokyo virus cases hit 6-month high, 2 days before Games open

— France requires COVID pass for Eiffel Tower, tourist venues

— US life expectancy in 2020 saw biggest drop since WWII

— WHO leader says virus risk inevitable at Tokyo Olympics

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TOKYO — Tokyo’s coronavirus infections have surged to a six-month high with the Olympic host city logging 1,832 new cases just two days before the Games open.

Tokyo is currently under its fourth state of emergency, which will last until Aug. 22, covering the entire duration of the Olympics that start Friday and end Aug. 8. Fans are banned from all venues in the Tokyo area.

Japan Medical Association President Toshio Nakagawa says the surge has been expected regardless of the Olympics. Experts say cases among younger, unvaccinated people are sharply rising as Japan’s inoculation drive loses steam due to supply uncertainty. About 23% of Japanese are fully vaccinated.

Health experts on Wednesday warned Tokyo’s infections would only worsen in coming weeks. Dr. Norio Ohmagari, the Tokyo metropolitan government’s expert panel member, says Tokyo’s average daily cases could hit around 2,600 in two weeks if they continue at the current pace.

Japan has recorded about 84,800 infections and more than 15,000 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic, most of them since the latest wave in January.

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TOKYO — The head of the World Health Organization says the Tokyo Olympics should not be judged by the tally of COVID-19 cases that arise because zero risk is impossible.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells the International Olympic Committee what matters more is how infections are handled.

Tedros wants Tokyo’s success to be judged by how “cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted.”

The number of games-linked COVID-19 cases in Japan this month is now 79. More international athletes have tested positive at home and cannot travel.

The WHO leader had a more critical message and a challenge for leaders of richer countries about sharing vaccines. He called it a “horrifying injustice” that 75% of the vaccine shots delivered globally were in only 10 countries.

“The pandemic is a test and the world is failing,” says Tedros, predicting more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 worldwide before the Olympic flame goes out in Tokyo on Aug. 8.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister says he’s urging the government’s adviser on vaccines to change its advice against adults under age 60 taking the AstraZeneca shot.

More than half the nation is locked down because of growing COVID-19 clusters.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization last month lifted the minimum recommended age for taking AstraZeneca from 50 to 60 because of the greater risk of rare blood clots associated with the vaccine in younger people.

The change followed the death in Australia of a 52-year-old. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was appealing to ATAGI to change its age advice due to the escalating risk from the more contagious delta variant. The only alternative to AstraZeneca in Australia is Pfizer which is in short supply.

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PARIS — Visitors now need a special COVID-19 pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theaters.

It’s the first step in a new campaign against what the government calls a “stratospheric” rise in delta variant infections.

People must be fully vaccinated or have a negative virus test or proof they recently recovered from an infection to get the pass. The requirement went into effect Wednesday at cultural and tourist sites.

Lawmakers are starting debate on a bill that would expand the pass requirement to restaurants and many other areas of public life, and require all health workers to get vaccinated. It has prompted protests.

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TOKYO — The head of the World Health Organization says the Tokyo Olympics shouldn't be judged by the tally of COVID-19 cases that arise because zero risk is impossible.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells the International Olympic Committee what matters more is how infections are handled.

Tedros wants Tokyo’s success to be judged by how “cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted.”

The number of games-linked COVID-19 cases in Japan this month is now 79. More international athletes have tested positive at home and can't travel.

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NEW YORK — U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020. That's the largest one-year decline since World War II.

The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse. The figure is three years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the calculations for 2020 early Wednesday.

The drop is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials say it's responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline.

Killers other than COVID-19 played a role. Drug overdoses pushed life expectancy down. And rising homicides were a small but significant reason for the decline for Black Americans.

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