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WHO: Delta Now Dominant COVID Variant Globally 

The delta variant of the coronavirus has overtaken all other variants of concern, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.  “Less than 1% each of alpha, beta and gamma are currently circulating. It’s really predominantly delta around the world,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead on COVID-19.  According to Van Kerkhove, the delta variant is so highly transmissible it has replaced other variants circulating around the world.  Hundreds of people demonstrated Tuesday in Australia’s second-largest city against coronavirus restrictions the government imposed on the construction industry.  Officials …


McDonald’s to Phase Out Plastic Toys from Happy Meals 

Fast-food giant McDonald’s said Tuesday it would phase out plastic toys from its signature Happy Meals by 2025.  “Starting now, and phased in across the globe by the end of 2025, our ambition is that every toy sold in a Happy Meal will be sustainable, made from more renewable, recycled, or certified materials like bio-based and plant-derived materials and certified fiber,” the company said in a statement.  McDonald’s said that this process had already begun in Britain and Ireland, and that all its Happy Meal toys in France were already …


Johnson & Johnson Says Its COVID Booster Shot Improves Protection

U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday new “real world” and phase 3 study data show a second shot of its single-dose vaccine about two months after the initial shot increased its effectiveness to 94%. In a news release on its website, the company said its clinical trial in the United States showed the booster shot also provided as much as 100 percent protection against severe or critical COVID-19 symptoms beginning at least 14 days after final vaccination.   The company also said there was no evidence of reduced …


Melbourne Protesters Rally Against Coronavirus Restrictions 

Hundreds of people demonstrated Tuesday in Australia’s second-largest city to protest coronavirus restrictions the government imposed on the construction industry. Officials announced construction sites in Melbourne would be closed for two weeks amid concerns that the movement of workers was contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Construction workers are also now required to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine before being allowed to return to work. Victoria state, where Melbourne is located, reported 603 new cases on Tuesday, the most infections there in a single day …


Journalists in Europe, US Face Harassment over Pandemic Coverage

When Italian reporter Francesco Giovannetti told protesters that he was covering them for the left-leaning daily La Repubblica, insults poured out with abandon. It was August 30 in Rome, outside the Ministry of Public Education, and demonstrators were speaking out against Italy’s “green pass,” a COVID-19 measure requiring workers to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test, or that they had recovered from the virus. The verbal assault soon escalated into a physical one when one man, who moments earlier had threatened to kill Giovannetti, began to attack the …


UN Chief: Climate Targets Not on Track 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern Monday that the world is not on track to meet several urgent targets in the fight against climate change.    “Based on the present commitments of member states, the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7-degrees [Celsius] of heating, instead of 1.5 we all agreed should be the limit,” Guterres told reporters. “Science tells us that anything above 1.5 degrees would be a disaster.”   To get to 1.5 degrees, the U.N. says wealthier nations need to step up with $100 billion a year …


Pfizer Says Its COVID Vaccine Safe and Effective for 5- to 11-Year-Olds

Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for 5-11-year-olds. The company said trials showed the vaccine was safe, well tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses at the lower dose levels necessary in younger children. Pfizer says it plans to seek authorization for the vaccines use for the younger age group soon. The governor of the U.S. state with the highest COVID deaths per capita rate said he sees President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for all federal workers as “an attack,” not a preventive measure meant to curb …


Australia Warned Dementia Cases Will Double Within 40 Years

Within 40 years, more than 800,000 Australians — twice as many as now — will be living with dementia, unless a cure is found, according to a new government-sponsored report.  Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia.   A new study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a government agency, has forecast that 1.1 million Australians will live with dementia by 2058, unless major new treatments are discovered.   Dementia is a broad term for a number of conditions that impair the functions of the brain.   In 2019, $2.1 billion was spent in Australia on residential and community-based …


India Expected to Ease COVID-19 Vaccine Export Restrictions

There is growing optimism that India could resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines as production expands at a rapid pace, putting the country on track to immunize its adult population in the coming months “We had put a target of 1.85 billion doses for ourselves. That has been organized by the end of December and thereafter the government will be able to allow vaccine exports,” N.K. Arora, head of the national technical advisory group on immunization told VOA. “We will have several billion doses available next year.” India, a vaccine powerhouse, …


‘Compassion Fatigue’ Hitting US Doctors, Report Says

A report in The Guardian says U.S. physicians treating unvaccinated patients are “succumbing to compassion fatigue” as a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases sweeps across the country. Dr. Michelle Shu, a 29-year-old emergency medicine resident, said medical school did not prepare her to handle the misinformation unvaccinated patients believe about the vaccine, calling the experience “demoralizing.” “There is a feeling,” Dr. Mona Masood, a psychiatrist in Philadelphia told The Guardian, “that ‘I’m risking my life, my family’s life, my own wellbeing for people who don’t care about me.’” The U.S. …


World Leaders Return to UN With Focus on Pandemic, Climate

World leaders are returning to the United Nations in New York this week with a focus on boosting efforts to fight both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which last year forced them to send video statements for the annual gathering. As the coronavirus still rages amid an inequitable vaccine rollout, about a third of the 193 U.N. states are planning to again send videos, but presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers for the remainder are due to travel to the United States. The United States tried to dissuade leaders …


China’s COVID-19 Vaccine Diplomacy Reaches 100-Plus Countries  

Despite doubts about the effectiveness of China’s COVID-19 vaccines, the global vaccine shortage is giving China an international soft power boost.   China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this week via the official Xinhua News Agency that it had delivered 1.1 billion vaccine doses to more than 100 countries during the pandemic.  This component of Chinese soft power, a tool used to deepen friendships abroad and vie for recognition over its archrival, the United States, despite festering disputes, could help boost China’s image in vaccine-recipient countries that cannot easily source doses from other places, observers said.   “They …