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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Photo: PA Wire/Simon Dawson

White House plans new system for international travel

The United States is developing a "new system for international travel" that will include contact tracing for when it eventually lifts travel restrictions that bar much of the world's population, a senior White House official said on Wednesday.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said the plan would replace the current restrictions and would be "safer, stronger and sustainable."

Booster shot generates higher immune response

U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists said on Wednesday that booster doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine may not be needed, even though the third shot generates a higher immune response in recipients.

New data from Moderna Inc's large Covid-19 vaccine trial shows that the protection it offers wanes over time, supporting the case for booster doses, the company said in a news release on Wednesday. Data from several recent studies suggests Moderna's vaccine protection lasts longer than a similar shot from Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE. Experts said the difference is likely due to Moderna's higher dose of messenger RNA (mRNA) and the slightly longer interval between the first and second shots.

Indonesia in talks with WHO to become global vaccine hub

Indonesia is in talks with the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as six drug companies to become a global hub for manufacturing vaccines, its health minister told Reuters.

Detailing the ambitious strategy for the first time, Budi Gunadi Sadikin said Indonesia was well-placed to export vaccines around the world, especially as it is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country and could guarantee that its jabs were halal, or permissible according to Islam.

UNICEF calls for schools to reopen in pandemic-hit nations

The U.N. children's agency UNICEF has urged education authorities to reopen schools as soon as possible in countries where millions of students are still not allowed to return to classrooms 18 months into the Covid-19 pandemic.

Schools in about 17 countries are fully closed, while those in 39 countries are partially closed, UNICEF said in a report on Thursday.

Nicky Minaj and the Covid-19 vaccine

Trinidad and Tobago Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh on Wednesday criticized as "false" a claim by American rapper Nicki Minaj that a person on the Caribbean island suffered swollen testicles after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. Trinidad-born Minaj sparked an international furore when she alleged on Twitter that her cousin in Trinidad refuses to get a vaccine because his friend become impotent after being vaccinated.

Minaj had also said that she had not been able to complete enough research of her own on the Covid-19 vaccines to get one in time for the Met Gala, a star-studded fundraiser for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The White House had said it was willing to set up a call to talk to her about the safety and effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine.

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