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The Latest: Pfizer to donate vaccines for Olympic athletes

Pfizer plans to donate vaccines for athletes and officials ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The International Olympic Committee says delivery of shots will begin this month. The rescheduled games are expected to open July 23.

5/6/2021 3:50:00 PM

Pfizer plans to donate vaccines for athletes and officials ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The International Olympic Committee says delivery of shots will begin this month. The rescheduled games are expected to open July 23.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech are donating doses to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Olympics. Delivery of doses is set to begin this month to give Olympic delegations time to be fully vaccinated with a second shot before arriving in Tokyo ...

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron is joining the Biden administration in saying that he backs the sharing of the valuable technology behind COVID-19 vaccines. But Macro is also insisting that the immediate priority for wealthier countries should be first donating more doses to poorer countries.

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Speaking on a visit Thursday to a vaccine center, the French leader said he “completely” supports opening up intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. Macron said that “evidently, we must turn this vaccine in a global public good.”But he also argued that even if patents are waived, pharmaceutical companies in places like Africa aren’t currently equipped to make COVID-19 vaccines and that donations of doses should be prioritized instead.

ADVERTISEMENTMacron claimed that the European Union is leading the way in vaccine donations and called for the United States and Britain to share more, too.He said that “Europe is the most generous continent with the rest of the world,” having exported 45 million doses, and expressed hope that “the British, the Americans and others will follow.”

He added that, “in the short term, this is what will allow us to vaccinate.”___BELGRADE, Serbia — Hundreds of people lined up to get vaccinated at a shopping mall in Serbia’s capital on Thursday hoping to get shopping coupons along with their shots.Serbian authorities want to give incentives to help boost the vaccination pace in the country, which slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories.

The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May.Long lines formed at Belgrade’s Usce shopping mall as authorities said only the first 100 people would receive the coupons. Vaccines are set to continue at the shopping mall on Friday and Saturday.

A popular Serbian folk singer who was previously known as a vocal vaccine opponent also received a jab. Jelena Karleusa has told local media she wanted to show solidarity with Serbia’s health workers.About 2 million people in Serbia so far have been vaccinated, primarily with doses of the Sinopharm vaccine developed in China, followed by the Pfizer-BioNTech, Russia’s Sputnik V or the AstraZeneca vaccines.

___SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials say they are paying close attention to the Biden administration’s call for a temporary suspension of intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines, but sidestepped questions on whether Seoul endorses the idea.

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Baek Yeong-ha, who heads a Health Ministry task force handling vaccine strategies, said during a briefing Thursday that it was too early to comment on whether more of the country’s vaccine supplies could be produced domestically. She didn’t provide a specific answer when asked whether her government plans to extend its support to international calls for pausing intellectual property rights for vaccines to deal with global shortages.

“The discussions are just beginning, and we are monitoring how things are going,” she said.South Korea, which has wrestled with a slow vaccine rollout, hopes to secure 190 million doses of vaccines this year through bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies and the WHO-backed COVAX program. It has so far received 4.56 million doses, including AstraZeneca shots produced by local company SK Bioscience.

Around 3.55 million people so far have received their first doses as of Thursday, which is less than 7% of the country’s 51 million population. Just 0.6% of the population, or 298,000 people, have got their second injections.___BRUSSELS — European Union President Ursula von der Leyen says the 27-nation bloc is ready to talk about the U.S. proposal to share the technology behind COVID-19 vaccines to help speed the end of the pandemic.

Without firmly committing to the U.S. proposal, von der Leyen said “we are ready to discuss how the U.S. proposal for waiver on intellectual property protection for COVID vaccines could help.”In a video address, she said that “In the short run, however, we call upon all vaccine producing countries to allow exports and to avoid measures.”

___KATHMANDU, Nepal — Thousands of passengers have rushed to leave Nepal ahead of a halt to all international flights because of spiking COVID-19 cases.Nepali citizens leaving to report back for jobs in foreign countries or visit family members and a few foreign tourists lined up at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport before flights cease at midnight Thursday. Domestic flights in Nepal have been halted since Monday. The government says only rescue and medical emergency flights will be allowed.

Nepal’s main cities and towns, including the capital, Kathmandu, have been in lockdown since last month as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continues to rise. Nepal recorded its highest daily infections with 8,659 on Wednesday and 58 deaths, which is also the highest.

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Raju Rajbanshi, who was married five days ago, said he was rushing back to his job in a cleaning company before the flights halt.″Ï am just lucky to be able to get on a flight today before all flights stop or I could have lost my job,” Rajbanshi said. “I am also glad I am getting out of Nepal where the situation is getting terrible every day.”

Nepal has recorded a total of 359,610 cases, including 3,475 deaths.___JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia is prohibiting travel during the popular homecoming period to celebrate Eid al-Fitr.COVID-19 cases have been decreasing in the world’s most populous Muslim country, but the government imposed the ban after seeing a significant rise in the mortality rate last year after the Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

The ban started Thursday and will last 12 days, exempting only civil servants, police and military officers, and those who need to travel for work.Indonesia has confirmed more than 1.6 million cases and 46,000 deaths from COVID-19, the largest totals in Southeast Asia.

___COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka is banning the entry of people traveling from India, where coronavirus cases are rapidly rising.The move by the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka comes as the number of confirmed cases in India exceeded 21 million.

Sri Lanka has also seen a rapid increase in cases in the last two weeks. Before April 20, the number of new confirmed cases was usually less than 200 each day. But since then, the number has gone up by at least eight times.On Thursday, health authorities said 1,939 new cases had been detected during the past 24 hours.

The largest number of patients were reported in the Colombo district, which includes the capital.Health officials have warned that infections could rise rapidly in the next three weeks because of celebrations and shopping by people during the traditional new year festival on April 14.

Sri Lanka’s total number of cases has reached 117,528 with 734 fatalities.___WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Soldiers and police in the Pacific nation of Fiji have surrounded and locked down a major hospital.Health authorities say they are quarantining 400 patients, doctors, nurses and other staff within the compound until they can determine who had contact with a coronavirus patient who died there.

The 53-year-old patient at Lautoka Hospital was only the third person to die from the virus in Fiji, which has about 1 million people. But the nation’s leaders are deeply worried that the latest outbreak is spreading, especially after two doctors at the hospital tested positive for the virus.

A health official says the hospital is closed and all medical services are being diverted to other facilities. The official says those sequestered in the hospital will be provided with food, bedding and whatever other supplies they need.___MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked China to take back 1,000 doses of donated Sinopharm vaccine after he was criticized for getting the injection even though the vaccine hasn’t been authorized for public use in the country.

The Philippine health secretary injected Duterte on Monday, and an unspecified number of Duterte’s guards received the Sinopharm vaccine in secrecy.Duterte said he told the Chinese ambassador “that this came under criticism because Sinopharm did not undergo examination so let’s just do away with it. You withdraw all Sinopharm vaccines, 1,000 of them.”

Duterte said his injection did not breach any regulation because it fell under a “compassionate use” exemption.Critics, however, said Duterte and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III made a mockery of vaccine regulations while ordinary Filipinos have struggled with a plethora of pandemic restrictions.

___NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says Broadway theaters can reopen Sept. 14. Many Broadway productions are scrambling to resume ticket sales in the coming days to welcome theater-goers this fall after city and state leaders have green-lit a reopening of the Great White Way at full capacity.

Broadway theaters will be allowed to decide their own entry requirements, like whether people must prove they’ve been vaccinated to attend a show.Selling tickets will allow theaters to gauge interest before stages open, said Robert Mujica, Cuomo’s budget director. The Broadway that reopens will look different, with “Frozen” and “Mean Girls” deciding not to restart.

___WASHINGTON — The U.S. departments of health and housing have launched a joint project to provide coronavirus vaccines to the homeless and people living in low-income neighborhoods and subsidized housing.Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge made the announcement on Wednesday during a visit to Community of Hope. It’s a service organization in an area of the nation’s capital that’s had high rates of coronavirus and relatively low rates of vaccination. The organization runs community health centers while also working to end homelessness among families.

“I think it is past time that this country understands that its government does care about them,” Fudge said. “We have gotten the low-hanging fruit — the people who really want the vaccines —now we have to go and do the next step.”Becerra says the Biden administration is trying various communication strategies. Those include directly reaching people who lack internet access and enlisting ministers, community leaders and sports figures as vaccination advocates.

Read more: The Associated Press »

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