India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, will resume exports and donations of surplus coronavirus vaccines in October, after halting them during a devastating surge in domestic infections in April, the health minister said Monday.
Mansukh Mandaviya said the surplus vaccines will be used to fulfil India’s “commitment toward the world for the collective fight against COVID-19,” but noted that vaccinating people in India will remain the government’s “topmost priority.”
India was expected to be a key supplier for the world and for the UN-backed initiative aimed at vaccine equity known as COVAX. It began exporting doses in January, but stopped doing so to inoculate its own population during a massive surge in infections in April that pushed India’s health system to the breaking point.
The halt in exports left many developing countries without adequate supplies and delayed vaccines for millions of people.
Before halting exports, India donated or sold 66 million vaccine doses to nearly 100 countries.
Mandaviya did not specify how many doses would be exported. He said India’s monthly coronavirus vaccine production has more than doubled since April and is expected to increase to 300 million doses in October.
“We will help the world and fulfil our responsibility to COVAX,” he said.
Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest maker of vaccines, is now producing an estimated 150 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine each month, a more than twofold increase since April.
India’s inoculations have risen in recent months.
A country of nearly 1.4 billion people, India has administered more than 800 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 9:10 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Alberta’s COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination program comes into force Monday, as the province faces rising case numbers and a deeply strained health-care system.
The program allows businesses and venues to operate without capacity limits and other public health measures if they require proof of vaccination or a negative test result from anyone entering. It applies at restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, concerts and fitness facilities, and is not mandatory.
When it was announced by Premier Jason Kenney last week, it also applied to retail stores and libraries, but they were removed from the list of eligible businesses over the weekend.
Kenney had previously opposed a vaccine passport over what he said were privacy concerns, but said last week it has become a necessary measure to protect Alberta’s hospitals that face the prospect of being overwhelmed in the pandemic’s fourth wave.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:25 a.m. ET
Here’s a look at what’s happening in other parts of the country:
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 228.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The reported global death toll stood at well over 4.6 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore’s health ministry reported 1,012 new cases on Sunday, the highest since April last year.
In the Americas, surges in coronavirus cases in several U.S. states this week, along with staffing and equipment shortages, are exacting a mounting toll on hospitals and their workers even as the number of new admissions nationwide ebbs, leading to warnings at some facilities that care would be rationed.
In Alaska, the influx is so heavy that the state’s largest hospital is no longer able to provide life-saving care to every patient who needs it, according to an open letter from the medical executive committee of Providence Alaska Medical Center this week.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health director says a government advisory panel’s decision to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans 65 and older as well as those at high risk of severe disease is a preliminary step and predicts broader approval for most Americans “in the next few weeks.”
Dr. Francis Collins told Fox News Sunday that the panel’s recommendation Friday was correct based on a “snapshot” of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-shot regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the U.S. and Israel continues to come in showing waning efficacy among broader groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.
Collins, who also appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation, said, “I think there will be a decision in the coming weeks to extend boosters beyond the list that they approved on Friday.”
Meanwhile, in Brazil, officials reported 935 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday and some 150,106 additional cases, an unusually large number due to what officials said was an adjustment in how case numbers are tabulated.
In Africa, health officials in Kenya say that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will be distributed to counties with suitable cold-storage chains. Counties without that capacity will receive vaccines produced by AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson, which don’t have to be kept as cold as the mRNA vaccines.
In the Middle East, Iran’s new government has approved the vaccine developed by U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson, a senior official said, as the Islamic Republic faces a fifth wave of infections.
In Europe, Austria will require people using ski lifts and cable cars this winter to be vaccinated against COVID-19, to have recovered recently from an infection or to have tested negative. People using lifts will also have to wear full medical N95-type masks, Austrian media reported.
–From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 9:05 a.m. ET
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