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News24.com | WATCH | US Begins Vaccinating Its Youngest Against Covid-19

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The United States on Wednesday started vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 against Covid-19, with roughly 28 million school-age kids now eligible for the shots that provide protection against the illness.

On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE shot for broad use in that age group after a panel of outside advisers voted in favor of it.

While about 58% of Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, children under 12 have not yet been eligible for shots.

The Delta variant of the virus has led to thousands of children being hospitalised and they make up 25% of US cases.

The vaccine, shown to be more than 90% effective at preventing symptomatic infection in children, offers an avenue for fewer quarantines or school closures and more freedoms.

“I think it’s going to make the issue of schools much easier, much safer,” White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

The US government is sending 15 million Covid-19 vaccines for children to distribution centers around the country, and while some vaccinations will be given as soon as Wednesday, shots will be more widely available starting the week of 8 November.

The shots will be available at pediatrician’s offices, children’s hospitals and pharmacies. The big national pharmacy chains, Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health, will have them starting this weekend.

The federal government has purchased 50 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to be deployed, US officials said this week.

Pfizer’s shot for younger children contains a lower 10-microgram dose of vaccine than the 30 micrograms given to those aged 12 and older.

The US Food and Drug Administration authorised the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years on Friday. So far, only Pfizer’s shot has been authorised for use in the United States for those under the age of 12. A few other countries, including China, are already vaccinating children

Moderna Inc said on Sunday it would delay filing its request for an emergency use authorisation for its vaccine for children aged 6 to 11 while the FDA reviews safety data in connection with its application for 12- to 17-year olds.

The states with the highest adult vaccination rates against Covid-19 are also preparing bigger pushes to get children inoculated than states where hesitancy remains strong, potentially widening the gaps in protection nationwide, public health officials and experts said.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced a new vaccine incentive aimed at kids that will offer two tickets for events at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for getting vaccinated at the arena.

Still, it remains unclear how parents will react. Many people who have been vaccinated themselves are more divided over whether or not to vaccinate their own younger children given that severe Covid-19 is much less common for them.

While the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been used in more than 400 million people, there is no long-term data yet for its use in adults or children.

California, New York and Washington state, all led by Democratic governors who have promoted vaccination and mask-wearing during the pandemic, are setting up mobile sites and high-volume vaccination clinics for children, spokespeople for the public health departments of those states said.

California has also mandated that school-age children get a Covid-19 vaccine once their age group is eligible, a measure being considered in New York and Washington.

Republican state governors have largely resisted measures such as mask mandates or vaccine requirements in workplaces, schools and public venues.

More than a dozen states, including Florida and Texas, have tried to block schools from imposing such requirements themselves.

“The best-case scenario would be everyone … did their best to get the age group vaccinated because it’s going to protect their younger siblings, their older relatives and people who just don’t respond well to these vaccines,” said Pamela Zeitlin, the chair of the department of pediatrics at National Jewish Health, a hospital in Colorado.

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Hakan Akgun/dia images

Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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