The United States rejected an appeal from the UN health agency on Wednesday for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, while China tightened overseas travel curbs after recording its highest number of infections in six months.
The World Health Organisation said halting booster shots until at least the end of September would help ease the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations and help fight a pandemic that has killed more than 4.2 million people worldwide.
"We cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it, while the world's most vulnerable people remain unprotected," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
But Washington swiftly shot the proposal down.
"We definitely feel that it's a false choice and we can do both," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that the US has donated more doses than any other country.
"Also in this country (we) have enough supply to ensure that every American has access to a vaccine," she added.
The WHO said the moratorium would help towards the goal of vaccinating at least 10 percent of every country's population by the end of September.
At least 4.27 billion doses have been administered globally so far, according to an AFP count.
In countries categorised as high income by the World Bank, 101 doses per 100 people have been injected – but in the 29 lowest-income countries that figure drops to just 1.7 doses per 100 people.
Highly vaccinated Israel began rolling out a booster shot for over-60s last month, while Germany said Tuesday it would start offering third doses from September.
However WHO vaccines chief Kate O'Brien said there was no convincing evidence yet as to whether booster doses were actually necessary.
In China mass testing campaigns have uncovered Delta variant infections across the mainland.
Local governments have tested entire cities and locked down millions, with the official figures on Wednesday revealing 71 new infections – the most since January.
The national immigration authority announced it would stop issuing ordinary passports and other documents needed for exiting the country in "non-essential and non-emergency" cases.
However the authorities have pulled back from issuing a blanket ban on overseas travel. (AFP)
US rejects WHO demand as China tightens travel
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