GENEVA — The World Health Organization says any coronavirus vaccines it has authorized for emergency use should be recognized by countries when they open their borders.
The move could challenge Western countries to broaden their acceptance of two Chinese vaccines, which the U.N. health agency has licensed but most European and North American countries have not.
In addition to vaccines authorized by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, WHO has also given the green light to two Chinese vaccines made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
In its aim to restore travel across Europe, the European Union said in May that it would only recognize people as vaccinated if they had received shots licensed by the European Medicines Agency, which doesn’t include the Chinese vaccines. However, it’s up to individual countries if they wish to allow entry to people who have received other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V.
Although Western countries have largely relied on vaccines made in the U.S. and Europe, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, many developing countries have used the Chinese-made shots. This year, the head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged the effectiveness of its home-grown shots was low and numerous countries that have used them extensively, including the Seychelles and Bahrain, have seen COVID-19 surges even with relatively high levels of immunization.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC
— WHO decision challenges West to recognize Chinese vaccines
— Thailand opens resort island of Phuket to vaccinated foreigners in ambitious plan to revive devastated tourism industry
— Biden well short on goal of delivering 80 million vaccine doses to world as White House cites local hurdles
— Indonesia vaccinates thousands in one-day event as it escalates its virus fight amid surge that’s filling hospitals
— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NAIROBI, Kenya — The African Union special envoy tasked with leading efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the continent is blasting Europe as Africa struggles amid a crushing third wave of infections.
Strive Masiyiwa says “not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa.”
Masiyiwa also took aim Thursday at the global COVAX effort to distribute vaccines to low-and middle-income countries, accusing COVAX of withholding crucial information including that key donors had not met funding pledges.
The African continent of 1.3 billion people is now in the grip of a third wave of infections the Africa CDC calls “extremely aggressive.”
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia will impose a curfew in most areas in Selangor and parts of Kuala Lumpur, where coronavirus cases remain high despite a national lockdown since June 1.
Defense Minister Ismail Sabri says the decision was made given the dense population and rising infectivity rate in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, as well as the spread of more aggressive Covid-19 variants. Malaysia reported 6,988 new infections on Thursday, with Selangor and Kuala Lumpur accounting for nearly 60%.
Under the Enhance Movement Control Order starting Saturday for two weeks, Ismail says no one can leave home. He says only one person from a household can go out to buy groceries within a 10-kilometer radius, with a curfew after 8 p.m.
He says only essential services and factories producing food, medicines and masks can operate. Ismail says vaccinations will be intensified in the affected areas.
Daily cases nationwide have come down from a high of more than 9,000 at the end of May. However, they’ve climbed this week to above 6,000. Less than 10% of the nation’s 33 million people have been vaccinated.
BERLIN — A top German official says it was “absolutely irresponsible” of European soccer’s governing body to allow some 40,000 fans to watch England’s European Championship match against Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium.
The crowd for Tuesday’s second-round match, which England won 2-0, was the biggest in Britain since the pandemic began in March 2020. The event came as the more contagious delta variant is fueling a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases in the U.K.
Asked about the capacity decision on Thursday, and about the prospect of more fans attending the final at Wembley, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer replied: “I think this UEFA position is absolutely irresponsible.”
Seehofer, who is also responsible for sports, added: “I have the suspicion that this is about commerce again, and commerce must not outshine the protection of the population against infection.”
He appealed to UEFA “not to push this off on local health authorities — a sports association should say clearly, ’we don’t want it this way and we’re reducing the numbers of spectators.”
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office says a 10-week drop in COVID-19 cases in the region has ended, and warned that a new wave could loom unless people “remain disciplined” and more people get vaccinated.
Dr. Hans Kluge on Thursday cited a 10% increase in infection numbers over the last week because of “increased mixing, travel, gatherings, and easing of social restrictions.” He cautioned that the highly transmissible delta variant is on track to be the dominant one by August in the 53-country region.
Some 63 percent of people in the region haven’t had a first vaccine jab, he said.
“The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and deaths before the autumn are therefore in place: New variants, deficit in vaccine uptake, increased social mixing,” he told reporters from Copenhagen, Denmark.
“There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined, and even more so when there is much less rules in place to follow, and unless we all take the vaccine without hesitating when it is our turn,” he added.
Kluge said people who want to travel and gather over the summer should continue “life-saving reflexes” like wearing masks. WHO Europe says people should make sure they get both doses of double-jab vaccines for maximum effectiveness.
Dr. Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer at WHO Europe, warned governments not to lift social distancing measures amid increased transmission. She said any such lifting should be accompanied by stronger public-health measures; sharing and sequencing information on new variants; testing; and reinforcing contact tracing.
WARSAW, Poland — In a move to boost uptake in coronavirus vaccinations, Poland launched a nationwide lottery Thursday for fully inoculated adults in which they can win money or prizes that include Toyota cars.
The lottery runs through September, a time when the Health Ministry says Poland can expect a fourth wave of infections, mainly due to the social mixing during vacation and the delta variant of the coronavirus.
Those who register will be eligible for prizes ranging from 200 zlotys ($52; 44 euros) in daily draws, to 100,000 zlotys ($26,000; euro 22,000) or Toyota Corolla cars in monthly draws. The top prizes are two Toyota C-HR cars and two wins of 1 million zlotys ( $263,000; 221,000 euros)
Some 12.3 million people in the nation of 38 million have been fully vaccinated, and another 17 million have received the first shot. There have been some 2.9 million registered COVID-19 infections, of which 75,000 have led to deaths.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fiji reported a record 431 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday as an outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant continued to grow.
Health authorities have reported nearly 5,000 cases and 22 deaths since the outbreak in the South Pacific nation began two months ago.
The government of the island nation of nearly 1 million people has resisted calls for a full lockdown as leaders try to protect an economy that last year contracted by 19% as international tourism evaporated.
Health authorities say that about 9% of people getting tested for the virus are returning positive results, a figure that has been increasing and indicates the outbreak is spreading.
Despite the growing outbreak, the government announced steps to reopen retail stores in and around the capital, Suva.
Faiyaz Koya, the minister for commerce, trade and tourism, said that without a reopening plan, some stores would need to close permanently.
TUBINGEN, Germany — German vaccine maker CureVac says younger people could benefit from its coronavirus shot, following disappointing results in a broader age group.
The company said Wednesday that its vaccine is 53% effective against COVID-19 of any severity in 18- to 60-year-olds. Overall, though, CurveVac says the shot is 48% effective, based on 83 cases in the vaccine group and 145 in the placebo group.
The World Health Organization has said vaccines with an efficacy above 50% are worth using, though many of those already approved have a far higher rate.
CureVac says it has sent the data to the European Medicines Agency, which is conducting a review.
CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas says the vaccine fully protects 18- to 60-year-olds against hospitalization. He calls it “an important contribution to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the dynamic variant spread.”
BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana’s governor is lifting the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic more than 15 months after it was imposed under his predecessor.
Wednesday’s move by Gov. Greg Gianforte comes as COVID-19 case rates continue to slowly drop in Montana. Almost half the state’s eligible residents are now fully vaccinated.
Broad public health mandates such as face mask requirements and occupancy limits for businesses were previously rescinded.
Other states also have lifted emergency declarations in recent days as the public health crisis eases.
The respiratory disease has caused at least 1,665 deaths in Montana.