Latest: WHO: Africa may get 30% of vaccine goal by February

GENEVA — The World Health Organization and partners say they hope to provide Africa with about 30% of the COVID-19 vaccines they need by February, half of the 60% goal African leaders had aimed for by the end of this year.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the vast disparity in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries a “solvable problem.”

He again called for pharmaceutical companies to prioritize the U.N. backed initiative known as COVAX to share vaccines globally. Currently, fewer than 4% of people in Africa have been fully immunized. Most of the 5.7 billion doses administered have gone to about 10 countries.

Most vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have gone to wealthy countries, many of whom are considering plans to use booster shots. Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of vaccines alliance Gavi, says the COVAX program expects to have 1.4 billion doses ready for delivery by the end of this year, about one quarter fewer than its original goal.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Russia's Putin in self-isolation due to coronavirus cases in inner circle

UK recommends COVID-19 booster shots for over 50s

— FDA experts among group opposing U.S. booster shot plan

— Judge's temporary order allows Iowa schools to mandate masks

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— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is in self-isolation after people in his inner circle became infected with the coronavirus.

The Kremlin said Tuesday that Putin tested negative for the coronavirus. Putin, who is fully vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, held several public engagements indoors Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov say Putin is “absolutely healthy” but came in contact with someone who contracted the coronavirus. Peskov didn’t say when Putin began self-isolating, when he tested negative, how long he would remain in self-isolation or who among the president’s contacts was infected.

On Monday, Putin met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose hand he shook. Assad tested positive for the coronavirus in March and later recovered; it’s not clear if he is vaccinated. Putin also shook hands with Russian Paralympians and pinned medals on them and attended military exercises alongside other officials.

Russia’s daily coronavirus cases have fallen in the past month from 20,000 to about 17,000. However, few virus restrictions are currently in place in Russia.

On Friday, only 32% of the population had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine and only 27% had been fully vaccinated.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported a total of 7.1 million confirmed cases and 194,249 confirmed deaths. Health experts have called into question how Russia is tallying cases and deaths.

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BERLIN — Berlin officials announced a change in coronavirus rules, favoring vaccinated people while restricting access to some venues for people who haven’t received the COVID-19 shot.

Berlin’s top health official says authorities will give restaurants, bars, sports venues, zoos, gambling halls and other recreational venues the option of allowing in only people who have a vaccine or recovery certificate, known as the ‘2G’ rule in Germany. Alternately, they also can continue to apply the 3G rule of letting in people with negative test results.

Those venues that choose to apply the tougher 2G rule won’t need to require that patrons wear masks or respect minimum distancing. Night clubs were already required to only let in people who are vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus.

Several of Germany’s 16 states are not allowing sick pay for unvaccinated people who are ordered to quarantine.

About 62% of the country’s population has received shots to qualify for a vaccine certificate. The government wants a rate of at least 75% heading into fall to prevent a surge of infections.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish health authorities says they’ll offer vaccinations at cultural events after experiencing success with one-day pop-ups in supermarkets.

“There are still a number of young people aged 20-34 who have not yet been vaccinated, and the Danish Health and Medicines Authority continues its efforts to increase vaccination support in this age group as well,” said Niels Sandoe of the National Board of Health.

He called it “incredibly positive” that 386 people were vaccinated in supermarkets last Saturday, saying it “shows that there are still citizens who want to be vaccinated when they receive a local offer.”

The next pop-up vaccination will take place on Sept. 17 at the SPOT festival of Danish and Nordic music.

More than 80% of people above age 12 have been fully vaccinated. Sandoe has said Denmark’s target of 90% vaccinated by Oct. 1 is reachable.

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LONDON — An expert advisory panel has recommended the U.K. government offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to everyone over age 50 to protect against the coronavirus.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization’s recommendation came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepared to announce the government’s new plan for combating the pandemic.

The World Health Organization has asked wealthy nations to delay booster shots until every country has vaccinated at least 40% of their populations.

The JCVI say booster shots were needed to ensure vulnerable people are protected against COVID-19 because studies have shown that the immunity conferred by vaccines slowly weakens over time.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government’s independent medical advisory body says booster shots of coronavirus vaccines should be given “with high priority” to people with seriously compromised immune systems.

The Health Council of the Netherlands says giving booster shots to the rest of the Dutch population is not currently necessary. But it says preparations should be put in place to give people a booster shot if it becomes clear that vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing serious illness is declining.

The council says while the protection of some COVID-19 vaccines against infection “has diminished somewhat over time, protection against serious illness has not.”

Some 62% of the Dutch population of 17.5 million people has been fully vaccinated. That amounts to 77% of adults.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ health minister says the nation is nearing 80% of the population receiving at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Minister Michalis Hadjipantela says it’s expected that 80% of citizens will be fully vaccinated within two or three weeks.

He says the achievement has put Cyprus among those European Union member states that have achieved or surpassed the target set by the 27-member bloc.

A recent opinion poll showed 13% of Cypriots are either reluctant about getting vaccinated or completely oppose it.

The country’s coronavirus infection rate has dropped in recent days following a sharp spike in new cases that had set record highs.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s planning minister warns that people who are not vaccinated won't be allowed to work from offices after this month.

In a televised message Tuesday, Asad Umar says unvaccinated people can't enter shopping malls, use public transportation or to travel by air after the Sept. 30 deadline.

Umar also asked people to keep social distancing. His comments came hours after Pakistan reported a steady decline in cases of coronavirus.

Umar says about 52% of the adult population in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, had been vaccinated. He adds other cities should try to vaccinate at least 40% of their eligible population to avoid lockdowns and COVID-19 related restrictions.

Pakistan has reported a total of 1.2 million cases and nearly 27,000 confirmed deaths.

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BEIJING — A second city in southeastern China has seen an increase in coronavirus cases in a delta variant outbreak that started late last week.

The National Health Commission says 59 new cases had been identified in the latest 24-hour period, more than doubling the total to 102. All are in Fujian province on China’s east coast.

The port city of Xiamen has confirmed 33 cases in the past two days. Another 59 cases have been found in Putian, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north on the coast, where the outbreak was first detected.

Xiamen locked down affected neighborhoods, closed entertainment and fitness venues and canceled group activities, including those for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival holiday. Long-distance bus service to other parts of the province has been suspended.

China has largely stopped the spread of the coronavirus, but has sporadic outbreaks. A delta variant outbreak in July and August spread to several provinces, raising concern about new and more contagious variants.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s capital city of Canberra will remain locked down for a second month after the local government reported 22 new coronavirus infections.

The Australian Capital Territory locked down Aug. 12 after a single case linked to a Sydney outbreak of the virus’ delta variant was detected. Territorial Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Tuesday that Canberra’s lockdown will be extended until Oct. 15.

Canberra is surrounded by New South Wales state, where Australia’s delta outbreak began when a limousine driver tested positive June 16. He was infected while transporting a U.S. cargo flight crew from Sydney’s airport.

Sydney is Australia’s largest city and has been locked since June 26.

Before delta came to Canberra last month, the city of 430,000 people had not recorded a single case of coronavirus community infection since July 10, 2020.

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CULLMAN, Ala. — As hundreds of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients filled Alabama intensive care units, hospital staff in north Alabama contacted 43 hospitals in three states to find a specialty cardiac ICU bed for Ray Martin DeMonia, his family writes in his obituary.

The resident of Cullman, Alabama, was finally transferred to Meridian, Mississippi, about 170 miles (274 kilometers) away. The 73-year-old antiques dealer died Sept. 1 because of the cardiac event he suffered.

Now, his family is making a plea.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID related emergencies,” his obituary reads. After describing the search for an ICU bed for DeMonia, the obituary adds: “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”

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GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Great Falls High School in Montana is moving to remote learning for the rest of the week due to an increase in coronavirus cases among students and staff.

School officials say more than 35 people have tested positive for the virus. Moving to remote learning will allow for quarantine or isolation times for students and staff to lapse and give sanitation crews time to disinfect more than 40 classrooms.

Student athletic activities will continue as scheduled, but there will be a mask requirement when students and coaches are in close proximity.

Other school districts have switched to remote classes because of outbreaks.

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DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is urging the Food and Drug Administration to quickly authorize booster shots for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as well as permit children ages 5 to 11 to be vaccinated.

Polis says foot-dragging by U.S. health officials has cost lives. In his words, “The FDA needs to get out of their ivory tower and realize there is a real life pandemic.”

In August, Pfizer said it had started the application process for a third dose of its vaccine for everyone age 16 and older. It asserts that people’s antibody levels jump fivefold to tenfold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier.

The White House has begun planning for boosters later this month, if both the FDA and the CDC agree. Advisers to the FDA will weigh evidence about an extra Pfizer shot Friday. The U.S. already offers an extra dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to people with severely weakened immune systems.

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