Covid-19 wrap | US authorises vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds, India variant 'of concern' - WHO

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  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 years old.
  • A Covid-19 variant spreading in India appears to be more contagious and has been classified as being "of concern", the World Health Organisation said.
  • Hong Kong scrapped a plan to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for foreign domestic workers after the proposal sparked an outcry and a diplomatic tussle.    


US authorises Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for 12-15-year-olds 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 years old.

Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock described the move as a "significant step in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic".

"Today's action allows for a younger population to be protected from Covid-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic," Woodcock said in a statement.

"This is a promising development in our fight against the virus," said President Joe Biden.

The move has been criticised, however, by some public health experts who say these doses would be better used in other countries where highly vulnerable people are still waiting for vaccines, instead of a low-risk group in the United States.

AFP


WHO says Covid variant in India 'of concern'

A Covid-19 variant spreading in India, which is facing an explosive outbreak, appears to be more contagious and has been classified as being "of concern", the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

"There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of the B.1.617," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's lead on Covid-19, told reporters.

"As such, we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level," she said.

She also pointed to early studies "suggesting that there is some reduced neutralisation", meaning that antibodies appeared to have less impact on the variant in small-sample lab studies.

The WHO insisted though that it was far too early to interpret this to mean that the variant might have more resistance to vaccine protections.

AFP

Hong Kong scraps mandatory vaccines for foreign domestic workers     

Hong Kong on Tuesday scrapped a plan to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for foreign domestic workers after the proposal sparked an outcry and a diplomatic tussle.

"The government has decided not to request mandatory vaccination when helpers renew their contracts," she said, adding the decision had been made after meetings with officials from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Philippine foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin had previously said the initial proposal "smacked of discrimination".

Hong Kong health officials announced the mandatory vaccination plan and the testing of all domestic workers last month after two were found to be infected with one of the more virulent strains of the coronavirus.

They said domestic workers were "high risk" because they often work with the elderly and meet in parks on Sundays - usually their one day off a week.

AFP

Saudi Arabia to require arriving visitors to quarantine for a week             

Foreign citizens arriving in Saudi Arabia must quarantine for a week in government-approved accommodation starting May 20 to combat the spread of Covid-19, the Saudi civil aviation authority (GACA) said on Monday.

As the kingdom reopens, exempted individuals such as Saudi citizens, flight crews and diplomats will have to quarantine at home unless they are vaccinated, state news agency SPA said, citing an interior ministry official.

Airlines are required to contract accommodation approved by the tourism ministry to house people in quarantine. The cost will be added to airfare.

Fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine if they present a vaccination certificate.

Non-Saudi travellers over 8 years old must show a negative PCR Covid-19 test result less than 72 hours old.

Reuters

Australia aims to vaccinate all adults by year's end     

Australia set a new target of vaccinating all willing adults by the end of 2021 on Tuesday, hoping to speed a glacial vaccine roll-out that threatens the country's pandemic success story.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg - unveiling a free-spending, crisis-tinged budget - said the continuation of the country's "roaring" economic recovery depended on "effective suppression of the virus".

To that end, he said, the conservative government expected Australia's borders to remain closed well into 2022 and for all adults "who seek to have that vaccine" to have received two doses by the end of the year.

But very few Australians are immunised and there have been repeated outbreaks linked to quarantine facilities, raising fears success could be fleeting.

"We don't know what is around the corner with respect to the virus," Frydenberg said. "The assumption is that there will be new cases."

AFP

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