South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tuesday wealthy countries should not hold onto excess stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines, and that the world needs to work together to fight the pandemic.
Ramaphosa told a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum that those who have hoarded vaccines need to release them “so that other countries can have them.”
"The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines,” Ramaphosa said. “Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs ... to the exclusion of other countries."
The South African leader said the world is not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people, but others are not.
Fighting emerging strains
U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine appears to produce virus-neutralizing antibodies against new variants of the coronavirus found in Britain and South Africa.
In a statement, the company said it conducted studies to ensure the two-dose regimen of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is protective against emerging strains of the virus detected to date.
The company says it will continue a clinical strategy “to proactively address the pandemic as the virus continues to evolve,” including testing the effectiveness of an additional booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine.
The recent emergence of several coronavirus variants, which have shown to be more transmissible — and in the case of a strain first identified in Britain, possibly more lethal — has made vaccinations a top issue for health officials.
Scientists said last week that while the British variant was associated with a higher level of mortality, it was believed that existing vaccines were still effective against it. However, a more contagious South African variant may reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines, scientists said.
The news from Moderna comes as the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world approaches 100 million.
Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced Tuesday the country’s total number of infections had surpassed 1 million. The milestone comes weeks after Indonesia launched an effort to vaccinate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people.
New US travel requirements
In the United States, new rules go into effect Tuesday requiring all travelers aged two years or older, including U.S. citizens, to show a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from the disease before they will be allowed to board a U.S.-bound flight.
President Joe Biden on Monday reimposed an entry ban on foreign travelers who have recently been in Brazil, Britain and much of Europe.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday at a news briefing, "With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn't the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”
Health officials in the state of Minnesota also said Monday they had detected the first known U.S. case of the Brazilian coronavirus variant in a patient who recently returned after traveling to the country.