Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sept. 23

As wealthy countries begin to consider whether to offer their populations a third COVID-19 shot, African nations still waiting for their first gave this stark reminder to world leaders at the UN General Assembly on Thursday: "No one is safe unless we are all safe."

African leaders highlight vaccine inequity in speeches at UN meeting

WHO adviser raises concerns about COVID-19 booster shots

2 years ago
Duration 4:33
Dr. Peter Singer, the special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, called for sharing COVID-19 vaccines globally before administering booster shots for fully vaccinated people at lower risk. Singer said two billion vaccine doses are needed 'in the next three to four months to save a million or more lives.' (Credit: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

As wealthy countries begin to consider whether to offer their populations a third COVID-19 shot, African nations still waiting for their first gave this stark reminder to world leaders at the UN General Assembly on Thursday: "No one is safe unless we are all safe."

That message was repeated throughout the day as the inequity of vaccine distribution came into sharp focus. As of mid-September, fewer than four per cent of Africans have been fully immunized and most of the 5.7 billion vaccine doses administered around the world have been given in just 10 rich countries.

Chad's president Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno warned of the dangers of leaving countries behind.

"The virus doesn't know continents, borders, even less nationalities or social statuses," Itno told the General Assembly. "The countries and regions that aren't vaccinated will be a source of propagating and developing new variants of the virus.

"In this regard, we welcome the repeated appeals of the United Nations secretary general and the director general of the (World Health Organization) in favour of access to the vaccine for all. The salvation of humanity depends on it."

A man speaks to the UN General Assembly virtually.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks via video link during the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday. (Spencer Platt/The Associated Press)

The struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic has featured prominently in leaders' speeches over the past few days — many of them delivered remotely exactly because of the virus.

South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa pointed to vaccines as "the greatest defence that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic."

"It is therefore a great concern that the global community has not sustained the principles of solidarity and co-operation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines," he said.

"It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 per cent of the world's vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one per cent has gone to low-income countries."

He and others urged UN member states to support a proposal to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organization to allow more countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

An Ivorian traditional chief receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination centre in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Thursday. (Luc Gnago/Reuters)

Angola president João Lourenço said it was "shocking to see the disparity between some nations and others with respect to availability of vaccines."

"These disparities allow for third doses to be given, in some cases, while, in other cases, as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose," he said.

The U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Israel are among the countries that have begun administering boosters or that have announced plans to do so.

In Canada, the national advisory body on vaccines has recommended giving third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to certain immunocompromised individuals, but still hasn't reached a decision on whether to provide additional shots to the broader population.

-From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 6 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

WATCH | Hyper-focused vaccination efforts in Toronto: 

The hyper-focused efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations

2 years ago
Duration 6:26
The next push to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in Toronto is relying on hyper-focused campaigns in neighbourhoods with low vaccination rates and tailoring the information to the unvaccinated.

Canada's vaccination efforts reached another milestone on Thursday, with 80 per cent of the eligible population — those 12 years or older — now fully inoculated against COVID-19, according to the country's chief public health officer.

This means more than 26.5 million Canadians are fully vaccinated, Dr. Theresa Tam said in a tweet.

-From CBC News, last updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

What's happening around the world

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private school in Quito, Ecuador, earlier this month. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

As of Thursday evening, more than 230.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has led the global fight against the pandemic as head of the World Health Organization, has gained wide support for a second term — formally nominated by at least 17 European Union members and backed by countries in other regions, diplomats said on Thursday.

As the deadline for nominations elapsed, diplomats said that they were unaware of any other names being put forward, suggesting that Tedros will stand unopposed in the May election. Tedros, a former health and foreign minister of Ethiopia, was elected as WHO's first African director-general in May 2017.

In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization has warned that countries in the region could continue to face localized COVID-19 outbreaks well into 2022, even while deaths have fallen from their peak in January.

In the United States, Alaska took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in COVID-19 patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and health officials announced the move as the tally of newly confirmed cases statewide reached another single-day record of 1,224 patients amid a wave of infections driven by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated.

A nurse practitioner administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Eagle, Alaska, last March. The state, once a leader in vaccination efforts, is now struggling to keep up with surging hospitalizations. (Nathan Howard/Reuters)

In the Middle East, Syria is facing a new surge in infections in both government-held areas and territory outside state control that could overwhelm the war-ravaged country's fragile health system.

In Africa, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has eased anti-coronavirus restrictions, including allowing resumption of education for universities and other post-secondary institutions, citing a decline in infections in the country.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in COVID-19 — 2,434 new cases reported Friday — since the start of the pandemic as people returned from the country's biggest holiday of the year.

A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, on Thursday. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

Thailand pushed back plans to reopen Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November.

In Europe, Portugal is scrapping many of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions, after becoming a world leader in vaccination rollout. As of Oct. 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in cafes and restaurants, weddings and baptisms, shopping malls, concerts and cinemas. Bars and discos will reopen, although only for vaccinated people and people with negative coronavirus tests.

Face masks will still be mandatory on public transportation, in hospitals, care homes and shopping malls.

Portugal has fully vaccinated nearly 85 per cent of the population, according to Our World in Data.

A member of Portugal's military gives a Vaccination Task Force patch to a family at a vaccination center in Lisbon earlier this week. Portugal is a world leader for COVID-19 vaccination, with 85 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated. (Armando Franca/The Associated Press)

The European Medicines Agency will likely decide in early October whether to endorse a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be given half a year after the initial two-shot course.

"The outcome of this evaluation is expected in early October, unless supplementary information is needed," the head of the agency's vaccines strategy, Marco Cavaleri, told a media briefing on Thursday.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

    With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press and CBC News

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