Denmark says Moderna vaccine remains available to under-18s

This file photo taken on June 4, 2021 shows a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in Paris, France. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

GENEVA / TBILISI / LUSAKA / VALLETTA / OTTAWA / BERLIN / WASHINGTON / BUDAPEST / ROME / LONDON / MADRID / BRASILIA / PANAMA CITY / COPENHAGEN / MOSCOW / ADDIS ABABA / DAKAR – The Danish Health Agency said on Friday that it was continuing to offer Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to under-18s, and that a statement on Wednesday suggesting a suspension had in fact been a miscommunication.

"The Danish recommendations have not been changed," the agency said.

"The Danish Health Agency continues to assess that both COVID-19 vaccines, both the one from Pfizer/BioNTech and the one from Moderna, are highly effective vaccines that have an important place in the general vaccination program in Denmark."

On Wednesday, Sweden said it would pause using Moderna's shot for people born in 1991 or later as data pointed to an increase of myocarditis and pericarditis among young people who had been vaccinated.

The Danish health agency then said that, while the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was anyway its main option for people aged 12-17 years, it had decided to pause administering the Moderna vaccine to under-18s under the "precautionary principle".

It later retracted the statement – although Finland also announced a pause.

"We've communicated badly in this case," the agency's head of press, Tina Gustavsen, told Reuters. "It was simply bad wording."

"We felt there was a need to say that we were not worried. We think it is a good and effective vaccine and we will continue to use it in the Danish program."

Africa

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 8,371,723 as of Friday afternoon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The death toll across the continent rose to 213,425, the Africa CDC said, adding that some 7,720,490 patients have recovered from the disease so far.

A health worker administers a dose of the CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine to a man at a drive-thru vaccination post in Brasilia on Sept 13, 2021. (EVARISTO SA / AFP)

Brazil

Brazil is in talks to buy up to 150 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for next year, according to a document sent by the Health Ministry to a Senate inquiry on Thursday.

The document was shared with the inquiry, which is probing Brazil's handling of the pandemic, after senators requested information on plans for the country's vaccination campaign next year.

The Health Ministry said it was negotiating the purchase of 100 million doses with Pfizer, with a possibility of acquiring another 50 million doses.

On top of the Pfizer vaccine, Brazil will rely on the Astrazeneca shot which it produces in the country – currently with imported active ingredients.

Canada

Canada reported 3,783 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday afternoon, bringing the cumulative total to 1,651,233 cases with 28,141 deaths, according to CTV.

Alberta, a province with a population of 4.4 million in the country, reported 1,254 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths.

There are 1,094 Albertans in hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19 as the province gears up for the Thanksgiving long weekend. The province now has 18,411 active cases. It identified 248 patients in intensive care units (ICU), with 87 percent being unvaccinated.

Quebec, a populous province in Canada, reported Thursday that 624 more people in Quebec had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall number of infections to 413,903.

Of the new cases, 426 were unvaccinated, 21 received one dose more than two weeks ago, and 177 were double-vaxxed more than seven days ago.

British Columbia confirmed 624 new cases Thursday afternoon. Four more people died of COVID-19 in the 24-hour period in the province, which raised the death toll to 1,996. The total known cases since the start of the pandemic were 191,748, and the total active cases were 5,929.

Ontario, the most populous province with a population of 1.4 million in Canada, reported 587 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the province has released guidelines on how residents can celebrate Thanksgiving this holiday weekend.

This file photo dated April 20, 2021 shows an exterior view of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (PETER DEJONG / FILE / AP)

European Medicines Agency (EMA)

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday it had approved US drugmaker Merck & Co Inc's manufacturing site in West Point, Pennsylvania to make Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this year, Merck agreed to make its rival's shot, after scrapping two of its own experimental COVID-19 vaccines. 

The US government at that time invoked the Defense Production Act to help equip two Merck plants to make the J&J vaccine.

The EMA said Merck's site, to become operational immediately, was expected to support the continued supply of J&J's COVID-19 vaccine in the European Union.

Georgia

Georgia's health authorities on Thursday approved that citizens over 50, individuals with chronic diseases and high-risk groups will be given a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

"People over 50 years old, as well as people of any age who have chronic illness and people at high-risk jobs including doctors will be given a third dose of the  COVID-19 vaccine six months after they fully vaccinated," said the country's Deputy Health Minister Tamar Gabunia on Thursday.

Georgia on Thursday reported 2,228 new COVID-19 cases, taking its total to 626,058, according to the country's National Center for Disease Control and Public Health.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn addresses a press conference on the situation of flu vaccines and the coronavirus pandemic in Germany, in Berlin on Oct 6, 2021. (ODD ANDERSEN / AFP / POOL)

Germany

Germany does not expect to have to impose any further coronavirus-related restrictions this autumn and over the coming winter, since the vaccination rate is higher than previously thought, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday.

He said that a study by the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases had shown that the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 was 5 percent higher than believed, meaning existing rules requiring people to show evidence of showing a negative test or having been vaccinated or recovered on entering an indoor space or event should be enough.

"As things stand, this vaccination rate means no further restrictions are needed," he said.

Meanwhile, Germany's vaccine advisory committee on Thursday endorsed COVID-19 booster shots for those 70 years and older as well as medical staff interacting with patients, even as the nation's health system is already giving boosters to those over 60.

The expert panel, known as STIKO, said a repeat shot of mRNA vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna should be given six months at the earliest after the initial standard course.

"Vaccine protection is decreasing over time in particular with regard to preventing asymptomatic infections and mild disease forms. With older age the immune response after vaccination takes an overall weaker form and breakthrough infections can more frequently lead to severe disease," STIKO said.

Anyone who received Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine should get an mRNA booster four weeks after the initial dose because the rate of breakthrough infections for J&J's vaccine had been the highest among the approved shots, it added.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 236.85 million while the global death toll topped 4.83 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Greece

Greece’s national vaccination committee approved a third vaccine dose for people older than 50, Health Ministry official Marios Themistocleous said Thursday. 

A minimum of six months must have passed since the second dose. A third dose for vulnerable groups, such as people with cancer, was approved earlier.

Hungary

Hungary has offered its help to neighbouring Romania in treating COVID-19 patients as the country grapples with record high new infections and a shortage of intensive care beds, the Hungarian foreign ministry said on Thursday.

"Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto offered Hungary's help in treating coronavirus patients in a letter over the weekend," the ministry said in a reply to Reuters questions, adding that talks were underway with Romania about the actual steps to be taken.

ALSO READ: EU: People with weak immunity may be given mRNA booster jabs

In this file photo dated Sept 13, 2021, a teacher (left) has her COVID-19 green pass checked by a school worker as she arrives at the "Isacco Newton" high school, in Rome. (ANDREW MEDICHINI / FILE / AP)

Italy

Italy increased the maximum attendance capacity allowed at cultural and sporting venues on Thursday, continuing its progressive easing of COVID-19 curbs for those who can show documents of immunity from the disease.

As of Oct 11, cinemas, theatres and concert venues will be able to fill all their seats, scrapping the current limit of 50 percent, the government said, following advice from its panel of public health advisors.

"Finally all cultural events are coming back to life," Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Twitter.

The maximum capacity of sports stadiums will be raised to 60 percent from 35 percent for indoor venues and to 75 percent from 50 percent outdoors.

Limits on discotheques and nightclubs will stand at 50 percent indoors and 75 percent outdoors.

There will be no restrictions on museums, where only social distancing rules will remain in place.

However, only those carrying the so-called Green Pass – a certificate that shows if someone has received at least one jab, has tested negative or has recently recovered from coronavirus – will be allowed entry, and masks will remain obligatory.

Latvia's Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins speaks with the media as he arrives for a dinner, prior to an EU summit, at the Brdo Castle in Kranj, Slovenia on Oct 5, 2021. (DARKO BANDIC / AP)

Latvia

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins called for a three-month state of emergency to slow the spread of COVID-19 after a record high infection rate and rising numbers of hospitalized patients. 

Karins made the comments early Friday after a 10-hour meeting of the crisis-management council.

Measures could include the mandatory vaccination of the public sector, and restricting most shopping to the vaccinated. 

Latvia recorded a record 1,752 new cases Thursday, with more than 700 in the hospital.

Malta

Malta plans to roll out booster COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare workers, pharmacists and teachers in December, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced on Thursday.

As of Wednesday, over 20,000 third doses had been administered, he said, with a drastic drop in cases being seen in care homes for the elderly within just one week. Over 96 percent of people in care homes have received the booster vaccine.

Fearne said that 71 percent of immunosuppressed people had also received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that the government is able to provide booster doses for the entire population.

Moderna

Moderna Inc said on Friday it was looking to deliver another 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to low-income countries in 2022.

A woman is inoculated with the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, in Taboga Island, Panama on May 21, 2021. (LUIS ACOSTA / AFP)

Panama

Panama is purchasing 3 million additional doses of the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE vaccine against COVID-19 for its inoculation efforts next year, the government said on Thursday.

The $45 million order will bring the total number of Pfizer/Biontech vaccines bought by Central American country to 10 million.

Panama plans to offer booster doses to vulnerable segments of its population, including health workers, people who are immune-compromised, or older than 55 years.

A country of some 4.2 million people, Panama also has vaccine tourism plans.

Officialy registered infections since the pandemic began stood at 468,545 including 7,259 deaths, health ministry figures showed.

Pfizer

Pfizer Inc's new vaccine for children aged five to 11 could be ready as early as November pending approval from federal regulatory health agencies, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said on Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled time to review the Pfizer/BioNTech application for emergency use with its advisory panel at the end of October, to be followed by recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zients told CNN.

Once the authorization is complete, Zients said: "We are ready. We have the supply. We're working with states to set up convenient locations for parents and kids to get vaccinated including pediatricians' offices and community sites."

Asked if he thought vaccines could begin before the US Thanksgiving Day holiday at the end of November, Zients said, "Up to the FDA and CDC scientific processes, but yes it could."

A woman wearing a face mask walks in Moscow on Oct 5, 2021. (DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP)

Russia

Russia reported 936 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, the largest single-day death toll it has recorded since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force also said it had recorded 27,246 new cases in the last 24 hours, a slight decrease from 27,550 cases a day earlier.

Senegal

The Senegalese government lifted restrictions on travelers to Senegal on Thursday evening, marking the reopening of the country's air borders to all passengers with a negative COVID-19 PCR test within five days, a senior official announced on Friday.

The announcement was made by the Minister of Tourism and Air Transport Alioune Sarr who signed a circular.

Airlines, whose operating programs have been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Senegal or which have a specific authorization, are allowed to embark and disembark their passengers who possess a negative COVID-19 PCR test within five days, according to the circular. 

Since the first case of COVID-19 recorded in March 2020, Senegal has recorded 73,825 positive cases, including 71,908 recoveries and 1,864 deaths, according to the statement. 

A total of 1,266,665 people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Spain

Spain's coronavirus incidence dropped below 50 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday, reaching the threshold considered "low risk" by the Health Ministry for the first time in over a year.

More than three quarters of the Spanish population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and most restrictions on socializing have recently been dropped, although masks remain mandatory in enclosed spaces.

The Health Ministry on Thursday added 1,807 cases to its tally of infections, bringing the total up to 4.97 million since the pandemic began. The death toll rose by 23 to 86,701.

The infection rate, as measured over the past 14 days, fell to 49 cases per 100,000 people, the data showed, slipping below 50 for the first time since July 27, 2020.

People traveling in a tube underground train carriage wear face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus on the Bakerloo Line in London on Oct 4, 2021. (MATT DUNHAM / AP)

UK

Britain's transport minister Grant Shapps said on Friday there was still no exact date for when the United States would open for travelers from the United Kingdom, beyond guidance of early November.

Shapps said he was in touch with his US counterpart and the US ambassador over the matter and that the US still wanted to proceed but it was a matter of working out the technicalities of how to do it.

Meanwhile, Shapps, who on Thursday scrapped tough COVID-19 hotel quarantine requirements for dozens of countries, said there would be an announcement shortly on allowing cheaper lateral flow tests for arrivals into the country and the new rule would be in place before Oct 22.

In another development, Britain will offer additional COVID-19 shots to participants in clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines that have not yet been approved in order to let them travel, the health ministry said on Friday.

Britain recognizes people vaccinated in vaccine trials as vaccinated for the purpose of both domestic and international certification.

It says it wants those who have received shots in trials, especially Novavax, whose phase III trial showed high-levels of protection, to be able to travel on the basis of the vaccine they have already received.

However, in the absence of willingness of international partners to reciprocate, the government said that trial participants would be offered two shots of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine if they needed to travel.

Britain recorded 40,701 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, up 12 percent on a week ago and marking the biggest total since Sept 6, government data showed.

The figures also showed an additional 122 people had died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, compared with 143 a day earlier.

Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a joint press conference with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto (not in frame) after their talks in the ministry in Budapest, Hungary, Aug 23, 2021. (BALAZS MOHAI / MTI VIA AP)

World Health Organization (WHO)

A World Health Organization spokesperson said on Friday that the health agency was "near" to resolving issues on Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, without giving a date for a potential emergency use listing.

"We are slowly solving most of the issues …," Fadela Chaib said at a Geneva briefing.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said last week that all barriers to register the vaccine with the WHO had been cleared and only some paperwork remained to be completed.

The WHO announced on Thursday an initiative to vaccinate 40 percent of the population of every country against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 and 70 percent by mid-2022, by prioritizing vaccine delivery to low-income countries, particularly those in Africa.

"Today, WHO is launching the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by mid-2022," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing. "The strategy outlines the road we must all take together to achieve our targets of vaccinating 40 percent of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70 percent by the middle of next year."

According to Tedros, achieving these targets will require at least 11 billion vaccine doses, which is an allocation problem instead of a supply problem.
"With global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is enough supply to achieve our targets, provided they are distributed equitably," he said.

According to WHO's records, more than 6.4 billion vaccine doses have now been administered globally, and almost one-third of the world's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, low-income countries have received less than half of one percent of the world's vaccines. In Africa, less than five percent of people are fully vaccinated.

ALSO READ: UN chief appeals for $8b to vaccinate 40% of world in 2021

Earlier this year, WHO set a target for all countries to vaccinate ten percent of their populations by the end of September, but 56 countries didn't make it. That has prompted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to join the WHO chief to launch the latest strategy.

"Vaccine inequality is the best ally of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Guterres, but "through dose sharing, swaps, technology transfers and other priority actions, it is possible to reduce deaths and minimize suffering, prevent health systems from being overwhelmed, resume social and economic activities, and reduce the risk of dangerous new variants."

The UN chief also renewed his appeal to G20 for help, adding that "their meeting later this month will be an opportunity to deliver."

Zambia

Zambia on Thursday relaunched the COVID-19 vaccination program with the aim of targeting 70 percent of the eligible population.

President Hakainde Hichilema, who relaunched the program in Lusaka, the country's capital, said having people vaccinated was critical if the fight against the pandemic was to succeed.

"As we relaunch the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, we call upon all Zambians to rise up and join hands in taking full responsibility and control in fighting the Coronavirus pandemic," he said, stressing that the rejuvenation of the vaccination campaign was necessary in order to raise awareness and create unprecedented demand for key interventions in order to save lives, livelihood and the economy.

According to the Zambian leader, many people in the country have been hesitant to take the vaccine because of lack of adequate information on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccin