Wednesday June 23rd, 2021 1:39AM

The Latest: Foundation to spend $1.3B to vaccinate Africans

By The Associated Press
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TORONTO — The Mastercard Foundation says it will spend $1.3 billion over the next three years to acquire and deliver COVID-19 vaccines for more than 50 million people in Africa.

The first-of-its-kind initiative from the Mastercard Foundation is aiming to bolster Africa’s lagging vaccination campaign amid widespread fears of a third wave of infections on the continent.

The foundation will purchase single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the discounted rate negotiated by the African Union during its 220 million dose deal with the vaccine manufacturer. A spokeswoman says the doses will become available in August.

The announcement Tuesday from the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, which has more than $39 billion in assets, comes days after the World Health Organization said Africa was encountering an alarming mix of a spike in virus cases and “a near halt” of vaccine shipments. The delays have been tied to India’s halt on vaccine exports, among other things.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is partnering with the foundation and will consult African government agencies and other institutions on how to best deploy the shots among the 55 African Union nations.



— China is pledging further aid to Southeast Asia in battling the COVID-19 pandemic

— India’s daily coronavirus infections dip below 100,000 for the first time in more than two months

— Washington state marijuana stores allowed to give free joints to vaccine recipients

— WHO official: High vaccination coverage needed to reduce risk of more transmissible variants

— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at and



NEW ORLEANS — Republican Louisiana lawmakers have taken aim at coronavirus vaccines, sending Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards two bills that would keep state and local government agencies from requiring individuals to be immunized in order to be eligible for certain services.

Anti-vaccine proposals from Republican Reps. Danny McCormick and Kathy Edmonston received final passage on Monday. Edwards — who has championed vaccines against COVID-19 and regularly urges Louisiana residents to get shots — hasn’t taken a position on the legislation.

No state agency in his administration has publicly proposed mandating vaccination for services. Meanwhile, tests of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine started Monday in Louisiana for children ages 5 through 11.

Children had their temperatures and blood pressure were checked, their noses swabbed and their blood drawn at Ochsner Medical Center as they went through the vaccination research process. Finally, they got a shot of either the vaccine or a placebo.

Ochsner, just outside New Orleans, is among 98 facilities across the U.S., Finland, Poland and Spain where tests of the vaccine in younger children are taking place or planned.


KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal resumed its stalled coronavirus vaccination campaign on Tuesday with 1 million doses given by China after the Himalayan nation made international pleas for help.

Thousands of 64-year-old people lined up at vaccination centers even before they opened. People ages 60-63 are scheduled to be eligible for shots in coming days.

Nepal’s vaccination campaign began in January but stalled when neighboring India suffered a coronavirus surge and banned exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine it produces. Nepal had received 1 million AstraZeneca doses donated by India and paid for 2 million more but never received half the shipment.

That left 1.4 million people over age 65 who had received an initial dose of AstraZeneca vaccine uncertain if they would receive their second shot.

Desperate Nepal made several pleas to foreign governments and international donor agencies. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari made calls to the Chinese leader and wrote to the presidents of India, the United States and Britain.

Another 1 million doses donated by China arrived this month.


ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan on Tuesday reported a single-day coronavirus positivity rate of less than 3%, indicating the third wave of the pandemic in the impoverished Islamic nation had had peaked.

Pakistan reported 53 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours. In April, when the positivity rate was over 11%, it reported a daily record of 201.

The country's steady decline in cases and fatalities from coronavirus started after the government imposed a two-week lockdown that ended last month. Pakistan has been in the grip of the third pandemic wave since March.

Pakistan has registered a total of 935,013 confirmed cases and 21,376 deaths in the pandemic.


GENEVA — Envoys from World Trade Organization member nations are taking up a proposal to ease patents and other intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines to help developing countries fight the pandemic.

On the table for a two-day meeting of a WTO panel opening Tuesday is a revised proposal presented by India and South Africa for a temporary IP waiver on coronavirus vaccines. The idea has drawn support from more than 60 countries, which now include the United States and China.

Some European Union member states oppose the idea, and the EU on Friday offered an alternative proposal that relies on existing World Trade Organization rules. The 27-nation bloc said those rules currently allow governments to grant production licenses — such as for COVID-19 vaccines or therapies — to manufacturers in their countries without the consent of the patent holders in times of emergency.

At stake in the meeting is whether the various sides can move toward drawing up a unified text, a key procedural step that could unlock accelerated negotiations. Inside observers cautioned, however, that a major breakthrough was not expected.

Even optimistic supporters acknowledge an IP waiver could take months to finalize because of solid resistance from some countries and WTO rules that require consensus on such decisions.


NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Cyprus says it will issue a temporary COVID-19 vaccination certificates to individuals planning on traveling abroad this month.

The Cypriot government said in a statement on Tuesday that the certificate is a stop-gap measure until the European Union starts issuing its own digital vaccination certificates.

The Cypriot document, which will be in Greek and English, will only be valid until July 1, when the EU certificates are scheduled to be available.

The government said citizens traveling to Greece don’t need to present the certificate.

The Health Ministry said that as of last week, one-third of the Mediterranean island nation's population of approximately 900,000 had been fully vaccinated.


NEW DELHI — India’s daily coronavirus infections have dipped below 100,000 for the first time in more than two months as an overall downturn prompts some states to ease restrictions.

The 86,498 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total past 29 million on Tuesday, second only to the United States, which has more than 33 million. The Health Ministry also reported 2,123 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 351,309. Both figures are believed to be vast undercounts.

India peaked at adding more than 400,000 cases a day in May, but new infections and deaths have declined across the country since then.

The downturn has led some states to ease restrictions on commercial activities to spur consumption. Multiple states have, however, extended lockdowns and have been reluctant to reopen.

Meanwhile, the federal government is going to take over vaccine procurement from the states and ensure vaccines are provided free of cost to every adult Indian. India’s vaccination drive has been marred by delays and shortages. Less than 5% of the population is fully vaccinated.


MIAMI — Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has announced plans to set sail from two Florida ports while requiring guests be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus despite state legislation banning businesses from asking proof.

The company says it is in talks with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff and attorneys “to ensure that we can offer the safest cruise experience for our passengers.”

On Monday, Norwegian announced sailings from New York, Los Angeles, Port Canaveral and Miami.

Carnival Cruise Line, also based in Miami, announced sailings from the Port of Galveston, Texas, with vaccinated guests and is working with Florida officials for a ship to leave from PortMiami.

Royal Caribbean International said Friday that eight of its ships will resume U.S. voyages in July and August with trips leaving Florida, Texas and Washington state ports.


WASHINGTON — The White House briefing room on Monday might have been a fire marshal’s nightmare.

For the first time in 449 days, reporters could cram into every seat for the daily briefing. Coronavirus restrictions had kept one of the most recognized rooms in the U.S. government almost empty. But mass vaccinations allowed reporters to first doff their masks on May 13 and then nearly a month later to gather in a pack of raised hands, shouting, hard-eyed stares and the occasional grimace.

“Hope everyone’s cozy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at she stepped to the lectern.

Forty-nine journalists sat elbow-to-elbow in blue seats, while others stood on the edges. The loudspeaker before the briefing told reporters not to block the aisle, but no one budged.

The briefing marked something of a surreal return to business as usual for Joe Biden’s presidency. The president had vowed to overcome the pandemic, and one of the consequences of any success on that front inevitably was going be more questions from more reporters. Monday was proof of that as the hourlong briefing ran to roughly 58 sets of questions.


NEW YORK — New York will lift more COVID-19 rules once 70% of adults have at least one vaccine dose, a target Gov. Andrew Cuomo hopes the state could reach in days.

Nearly 69% of New York adults have received at least one vaccination dose, according to the latest federal data. A smaller percentage of New York state’s 20 million residents have received at least one dose: 56%, or 11 million residents.

Once New York hits the 70% target, unvaccinated people will still have to wear masks and stay 6 feet (about 1.8 meters) from others on subways and buses, large-scale event venues, schools, nursing homes and hospitals. The state will lift any remaining health screening, contact tracing and cleaning and disinfection rules elsewhere.

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