US Buys 200 Million More COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

The United States says it is buying 200 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to anticipate future needs, including the possibility of booster shots as well as doses for children under 12 if regulators approve its use.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the additional doses would be delivered between this fall and spring of next year.

She said the Biden administration is “going to prepare for every contingency” and wants to have “maximum flexibility” to deal with future possibilities.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve any COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12, but drugmakers have been testing their vaccines’ efficacy and safety in that age group.

Health officials have begun to discuss the possibility of booster shots, but so far have said that Americans who are fully vaccinated do not need them at this time.

In Europe, regulators Friday recommended approval of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds. The European Medicines Agency has already approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use by teens.

The approval paves the way for the European Commission and individual European governments to follow suit and allow the vaccine for teens.

In another development Friday, the World Health Organization called for all countries to work together to investigate the origins of COVID-19, a day after China rejected plans by the WHO for another investigation.

WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said another investigation is not about “politics” or a “blame game.” He said it is “about basically a requirement we all have to try to understand how the pathogen came into the human population.”

The top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, called Friday for a congressional investigation into the origins of COVID-19, saying he has more evidence that the virus was leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

China has repeatedly rejected that theory.

The vice minister of the Chinese National Health Commission, Zeng Yixin, said Thursday the WHO’s proposal to reopen its investigation into a Chinese lab leak as the source of the global outbreak lacked “respect for common sense and an arrogant attitude toward science.” He said China “can’t possibly accept such a plan.”

An investigation China and the WHO conducted earlier this year concluded it was “extremely unlikely” that a Wuhan lab leak was the source of the virus. Some international experts say, however, that Chinese scientists wielded too much influence in determining the results of the investigation.

In Japan on Friday, after a one-year pandemic delay, the Tokyo Olympics formally opened.

The event is being held amid tens of thousands of empty seats in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, with only about 900 dignitaries and other officials attending because of COVID-19 precautions.

The Japanese public is broadly opposed to holding the Games, fearing they will worsen Japan’s already deteriorating pandemic situation.

In New Zealand, officials announced the suspension of the country’s quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia, as that country struggles to bring an outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant under control.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe,” the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said Friday.

India’s health ministry said Friday it had recorded more than 35,000 new COVID-19 cases and 483 deaths in the previous 24-hour period.

In the United States, some local health officials recommended reinstituting mask mandates because of the spread of the delta variant. Washington state’s top epidemiologist, Dr. Scott Lindquist, recommended that everyone wear a mask in crowded indoor places regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Friday cited increasing hospitalizations across the state in encouraging people to wear masks indoors if they could not socially distance.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, worldwide cases of COVID-19 have reached nearly 193.2 million. Global deaths stand at 4.14 million.

Source: Voice Of America