US, Bahrain boosters as G20 vow jab equity

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Certain groups in the United States and Bahrain will soon be able to receive coronavirus vaccine booster shots, authorities say, as G20 countries agreed that global jab distribution needs to be fairer.

The US government's top infectious disease expert said on Sunday he believes delivery of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be able to start on September 20 for people who received Pfizer doses while Moderna's may end up rolling out two weeks later.

Anthony Fauci told CBS that it was still the plan of US President Joe Biden's administration "in some respects" to begin the third doses the week of September 20, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

The administration had hoped that both Pfizer and Moderna booster shots would be rolled out at that time.

But Fauci said it is "conceivable" that for Moderna's, there might be "at most a couple of weeks, a few weeks delay, if any," while the company provides more data to the FDA on the booster's efficacy.

Biden on August 18 touted boosters as a protection against the virus' more transmissible Delta variant and said most people in the US should consider getting a booster eight months after their second shot.

Ron Klain, Biden's chief of staff, said on Sunday the administration had always made clear that September 20 was a target date and "No one's going to get boosters until the FDA says they're approved".

Meanwhile, Bahrain has authorised a third booster shot of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for anyone above the age of 18 who received their second dose at least six months ago.

The country's coronavirus taskforce is encouraging residents who received the Sputnik jab to register for the extra dose.

Already, the government has rolled out Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots to people six months after they received two shots of China's Sinopharm vaccine.

The Middle East country is one of the world's leaders in per-capita inoculations, largely relying on the Sinopharm jab.

Daily infections in the country of 1.6 million have sharply declined from peaks reached a few months ago and now hover at about 100 new cases per day.

The country, which has recorded more than 272,900 infections, is also producing the Sputnik V vaccine to supply demand across the Middle East and North Africa.

The health ministers of the world's 20 leading economies agreed on Sunday to work towards more equity in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at a meeting in Rome on the next steps in the effort to contain the coronavirus.

The conditions are in place to agree to what G20 ministers have dubbed the Rome Pact, Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza said.

One key commitment of the pact is a fairer distribution of vaccines beyond wealthy countries based on the shared understanding that vaccination is a right of all and not the privilege of a few, Speranza said.

Germany is planning to make 100 million vaccine doses available for the international inoculation campaign before the end of the year, Health Minister Jens Spahn announced on the sidelines of the meeting.

"That is the same amount as we have vaccinated in our own country so far," Spahn said, adding that the contribution will help towards the goal of having at least 40 per cent of the world population vaccinated before 2022.

The pandemic is only over when it is over worldwide, Spahn said, warning of the danger that variants pose with the lack of a global response.

This is one of the last G20 ministerial meetings before the G20 leaders meet at the end of October in Rome.

At the two-day meeting, participants are also discussing how future pandemics can be prevented or how countries can be better prepared as well as ways to make scientific knowledge more accessible around the world.

The goal is "a strong message of co-operation, solidarity and justice, in the firm belief that nobody should be left behind," the meeting's organisers said.

Russia called on the G20 countries to mutually recognise the digital COVID-19 vaccination certificates.

It is important to develop common approaches to cross-border travel of vaccinated people, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said.

with DPA

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