Latest: EU commits 200 million more vaccine doses to Africa

BRUSSELS — The European Union is committing 200 million more vaccine doses to Africa.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the donation comes on top of 250 million already committed and underscores the EU resolve to boost global vaccination.

Von der Leyen called it an “investment in solidarity and it is an investment also in global health.”

African health officials have said they need about 800 million doses to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s population. As of last week, 145 million doses had been procured, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only 3.5% of the continent of 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated, the CDC says, amid frustration over distribution, export controls and the rollout of booster shots in richer countries.

Von der Leyen says on top of delivering 700 million doses to Europeans and meeting the goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated this summer, the 27-nation bloc had sent the same number of doses to a combined 130 nations.

“With less than 1% of global doses administered to lower income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious,” says Von der Leyen, adding the bloc is investing 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to boost vaccine production capacity in Africa.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— EU pledges 200 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa

— China imposes local lockdowns as COVID-19 cases surge

— Largest public universities in U.S. push vaccines with mandates and prizes

COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. climb back to last winter's levels winter

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

GENEVA — The World Health Organization said there were about 4 million coronavirus cases reported globally last week, marking the first major drop in new infections in more than two months. In recent weeks, there have been about 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases.

In its weekly update released on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said every region in the world saw a drop in COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week.

Although the worldwide number of deaths decreased to about 62,000, with the sharpest decline in Southeast Asia, there was a 7% increase in deaths in Africa. The highest numbers of cases were seen in the U.S., Britain, India, Iran and Turkey and the highly contagious delta variant has now been reported in 180 countries.

WHO also said children and teenagers continue to be less affected by COVID-19 when compared to adults, adding that deaths of people under 24 due to the disease account for fewer than 0.5% of global deaths.

WHO has previously said children should not be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations given the extreme vaccine shortages globally.

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PARIS — Health care workers in France face suspension from their jobs starting Wednesday if they haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19. With about 300,000 workers still not vaccinated, some hospitals fear staff shortages will add to their strain.

Vaccines are now compulsory for medical care, home care and emergency workers in France, and Wednesday is the deadline for such staff to have had at least one shot. Failing that, they face having pay suspended or not being able to work. But a top court has forbidden staff to be fired outright.

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia will launch a campaign Friday to begin giving COVID-19 vaccinations to children between 6 and 11 years of age.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday the action was being taken to allow children to return safely to school after a long absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an audio message to province and municipality chiefs posted on his Facebook page, he said more than 1.8 million children were expected to get their jabs under the program, which will use Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine.

He also said he was considering having children 3-5 years-old be vaccinated soon.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported a record daily increase in coronavirus infections in the Seoul region just days before the nation enters its biggest holiday of the year.

Officials said Wednesday that 2,080 new cases were confirmed nationwide, exceeding 2,000 for the eighth time in a span of a month. The 1,663 cases reported in the capital and nearby areas were the most since the start of the pandemic.

Officials are concerned transmissions could worsen nationwide during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving that begins this weekend. Millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives.

Health officials are urging residents in the Seoul region not to travel to other areas during the holidays and to avoid relatives who aren’t fully vaccinated. About 40% of a population of more than 51 million was fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska’s largest hospital has begun rationing care, saying it has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

Providence Alaska Medical Center said Tuesday it will prioritize resources and treatment to those patients who have the potential to benefit the most.

Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw is chief of staff at the hospital and says that “we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,”

Alaska, like other places, has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Providence is one of only three hospitals in Anchorage, a city of 300,000 people. Walkinshaw says Providence’s emergency room is overflowing and patients have to wait for hours in their cars to see a doctor for emergency care.

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SYDNEY — Australia’s New South Wales state has hit a coronavirus vaccination milestone, with 80% of the target population receiving a shot, and the government says a curfew will be lifted in the worst-affected parts of Sydney.

Australia intends to open its borders and no longer resort to lockdowns once 80% of the population aged 16 and older is fully vaccinated.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Wednesday that infection rates have plateaued in the 12 worst-affected local areas in Sydney and the curfew will end for those areas Wednesday night.

Australia’s outbreak of the delta variant began in Sydney in June and New South Wales leads the rest of the country in vaccinating its population.

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UNITED NATIONS -- The new president of the U.N. General Assembly says his top priority is the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and getting every single person in the world vaccinated by the end of 2022.

After taking his oath of office Tuesday, Abdulla Shahid said: “I believe that we can do it, and I call upon leaders of all countries to come together and get this done.”

Shahid says he plans to hold a high-level meeting in early 2022 with government leaders, vaccine producers, the scientific community, civil society, and others to work on closing the gap to vaccine access.

The former foreign minister of the Indian Ocean island nation of The Maldives says that “we cannot accept that only 3% of Africa has yet been immunized.”

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BOISE, Idaho — Public health officials in Idaho say crisis standards of care are imminent for the state’s most populated region as hospitals continue to be overrun with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, says southern Idaho including the Boise metropolitan area could join northern Idaho in rationing health care at any moment.

Last week, the state formally enacted “crisis standards of care” in northern Idaho, giving overwhelmed hospitals permission to direct scarce resources like intensive care unit beds to the patients most likely to survive. At Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, some COVID-19 patients are being treated in a field hospital at a conference center.

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