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EU regulator gives go-ahead to first COVID shot for 5-11 year olds

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November 25, 2021

By Pushkala Aripaka

(Reuters) -The EU’s drug regulator approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11 on Thursday, paving the way for them to be given a first shot as Europe struggles to contain a surge in infections.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, approved for European Union use in teenagers between 12 and 17 years old since May, be given as an injection in the upper arm in two 10 microgram doses, three weeks apart. Adult doses contain 30 micrograms.

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The approval comes as Europe is again the epicentre of the pandemic again https://reut.rs/32yJp0j, accounting for about half of cases and deaths.

Inoculating children and young people, who can unwittingly transmit COVID-19 to others, is considered a critical step towards taming the pandemic. In Germany and the Netherlands, kids now account for the majority of cases.

Pfizer and BioNTech have said their vaccine, which is called Comirnaty, showed 90.7% efficacy against the coronavirus in a clinical trial of children aged 5 to 11.

“The benefits of Comirnaty in children aged 5 to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19,” the EMA said https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/comirnaty-covid-19-vaccine-ema-recommends-approval-children-aged-5-11.

While final approval is up to the European Commission, it typically follows EMA recommendations and an EU source told Reuters that a decision would likely come on Friday.

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“Today’s recommendation (…) is clear the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for young children, and can offer them additional protection,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter.

Countries will not be able to start rolling out the shots among younger children until next month. The first of the low-dose paediatric version will be delivered on Dec. 20, a spokeswoman for BioNTech said.

Polish Health Ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz told state-run news agency PAP that Poland would start vaccinating children aged 5-11 in December.

The EU joins a growing number of countries https://reut.rs/3COxM1t, including the United States, Canada, Israel, China and Saudi Arabia, which have cleared vaccines for children in the 5-11 year age group and younger.

Tens of millions of children in this age group will be eligible for the shot in the EU. Germany will get 2.4 million doses with the first shipment, enough to inoculate about half the country’s children aged 5-11, the BioNTech spokeswoman said.

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For paediatric shots, the U.S. regulator authorised a new version of the vaccine, which uses a new buffer and allows them to be stored in refrigerators for up to 10 weeks.

EPICENTRE AGAIN

Surging cases in Europe have prompted new unpopular curbs on movement https://reut.rs/3nPYov1 as winter grips the region and people gather indoors for celebrations in the run-up to Christmas, providing perfect conditions for COVID-19 to spread.

Slovakia started a two-week lockdown https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/europe-rethinks-booster-shot-policy-covid-cases-hit-records-2021-11-24 on Thursday, following the lead of Austria, while the Portuguese and French governments are considering more restrictions.

While health experts have pushed the wider use of booster shots to try and avoid hospitals being overwhelmed as immunity from earlier shots wanes, vaccinating younger people is another tool in fighting the virus.

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Some countries, however, have limited the use of COVID-19 shots based on the so-called mRNA technology used by Pfizer-BioNTech to younger people after reports of possible rare cardiovascular side-effects.

Top U.S. infectious disease official Anthony Fauci told Reuters this week there had been no sign of any new safety issues since the rollout of vaccines for younger kids started earlier this month.

At least 10% of the 28 million eligible U.S. children have had a first dose.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels, Patricia Weiss in Frankfurt and Alan Charlish in Warsaw; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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Three missionaries released in Haiti following October kidnapping

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December 7, 2021

By Katharine Jackson

(Reuters) – Three missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti in October have been released, the U.S. State Department and the Ohio-based missionary group that organized the group’s trip to the Caribbean nation said on Monday.

“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement.

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U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday confirmed the release, adding that the United States is continuing to work to secure the release of the others.

Haitian National Police spokesman Garry Desrosiers said the three were released on Sunday night. He declined to give additional details, citing the security of the remaining hostages.

Sixteen Americans and one Canadian, including five children, were abducted after visiting an orphanage. The incident has highlighted Haiti’s dire kidnapping problem, which has worsened in recent months amid economic troubles and political upheaval.

Two other ministry group members were released last month.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson in Washington; Additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Susan Heavey and Matthew Lewis)

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Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defence minister

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December 7, 2021

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – An appeals court in the Netherlands rules on Tuesday in a case alleging war crimes against Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is blamed by a Dutch Palestinian for the loss of six relatives in an Israeli air strike on Gaza in 2014.

Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules. His case was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020.

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Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed.

But the lower court ruled that the principles of universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility, but not in civil cases.

Ziada appealed, arguing that universal jurisdiction should be applied in civil cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law. He asked the appeals judges to reverse the decision, which effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.

Gantz, a career soldier turned politician, was commander-in-chief of the Israeli armed forces during a war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the incident took place.

About 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed, up to 1,500 of them civilians, in the conflict, according to U.N. figures. Ziada said he lost relatives when his family home in Gaza was bombed during a June 2014 Israeli air strike. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.

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Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, regarded by the West as a terrorist organization. Israel says Hamas puts civilians in harm’s way by deploying fighters and weaponry inside densely populated areas of Gaza. 

    Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes in the 2014 conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 2014 by both Israeli defence forces and Palestinian armed groups.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague with additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Mark Heinrich)

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Global finance system partly to blame for inequality – World Bank’s Malpass

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December 7, 2021

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President David Malpass on Monday said fiscal and monetary policies were operating in “uncharted territory” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and may be contributing to a sharp rise in global inequality and poverty.

Malpass told a roundtable hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang the number of people in extreme poverty had increased by over 100 million since the beginning of the pandemic even as global spending has increased to an all-time record.

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Advanced economies have rebounded, while the poorest countries had seen only a weak rebound, or none at all, he said. This was causing “tragic reversals” in median incomes, women’s empowerment and nutrition, he said, and inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, and high energy prices were aggravating these trends.

“Part of the inequality problem is global finance itself and the unequal structure of the stimulus,” Malpass said, noting that prevailing sovereign debt, fiscal and monetary policies were adding to inequality.

Malpass said monetary policy in the advanced economies had long focused on reserve requirement ratios and limited growth in bank reserves to achieve stability in currencies and prices, an approach still used by China.

Other major central banks had switched to a “post-monetarism system” of using very large amounts of excess bank reserves to purchase and hold long-duration bonds and other assets, which he said provided price support for a highly select group of assets.

That approach, he said, excluded small businesses and developing countries, while restraining policy through regulation of liquidity and bank capitalization ratios.

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Fiscal policy was also channeling resources to narrow groups within major borrowers, while leaving others behind, and sovereign debt policies were contributing to inequality.

Malpass repeated his call for greater transparency in debt contracts and a freeze in debt payments for countries with unsustainable debt. He said creditors should move away from collateral and escrow arrangements.

“As one of the largest creditors of developing countries, China’s active participation and strong voice in debt reduction efforts are very much needed and would benefit all participants by encouraging sustainable investment and debt,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio)

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