Welcome back to Axios World.
- Thanks as always for joining us. We're starting tonight with the global debate around vaccine boosters (1,780 words, 6½ minutes).
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Welcome back to Axios World.
Subscribe here, and tell a friend.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The rapid spread of the Delta variant around the rich world has injected increased urgency into the debate around booster shots, but the World Health Organization and public health experts are trying to keep the focus on getting vaccines to those who don’t yet have access.
Why it matters: Israel last week became the first country to offer boosters to people with weak immune systems, and Pfizer is pushing for rapid approval of boosters in the U.S., citing preliminary data that suggests immunity may begin to wane after six months.
Yes, but: Those findings conflict with other data, and scientists and regulators say it’s too early to know whether boosters will be needed.
But the debate around boosters in rich countries is happening with just a fraction of people in the developing world having had a single shot, including just 3% across Africa.
Even if immunity does wane over time, people who are vaccinated will still have some protection, meaning it's far more urgent from a global health standpoint to vaccinate those who haven’t had a shot yet — particularly health care workers and vulnerable people in lower-income countries.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hedged at a virtual press conference this week when I asked whether it would be wrong for rich countries to give boosters while access remained so uneven.
State of play: In the long term, the cash that countries and companies are pouring into the development of booster shots could ensure a greater overall supply, Udayakumar says.
We're all free! Well, except for me. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/WPA Pool/Getty
The U.K. lifted all coronavirus restrictions today, but "Freedom Day" felt odd for at least two reasons: the U.K. has the world's highest population-adjusted rate of new cases (aside from small island countries), and the prime minister who set the policy is currently self-isolating.
State of play: The exponential growth in cases, powered by the Delta variant, has not yet been matched by a similar spike in cases, likely because of the U.K.'s high vaccination rate (87% of adults have had one shot).
Protests in Marseille against the new policies. Photo: Gerard Bottino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty
France has seen a surge in vaccinations and a groundswell of anger over policies that will next month make it mandatory to get the shot or show a negative test in order to visit a cafe, see a movie, take a train and more.
Driving the news: Protests across the country reportedly drew over 100,000 people over the weekend, and two vaccination centers were vandalized.
State of play: Despite one of the world's most vaccine-skeptical populations, France has nearly caught up to the U.S. on vaccinations. The new policy is aimed in particular at younger people who might otherwise opt out.
The big picture: Several countries have mandated vaccines for certain health workers or attempted some form of "vaccine passport," but Turkmenistan recently became the second country to make them mandatory for all adults, following Indonesia.
Waiting to be administered to the hospital in Surabaya, Indonesia. Photo: Juni Kriswanto/AFP via Getty
Indonesia is now recording more cases each day than any other country as the Delta variant sweeps through Southeast Asia.
The big picture: Earlier waves of the pandemic largely missed countries like Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. But with vaccination rates still low, countries in the region are now recording their highest case counts of the pandemic.
Zoom in: Just 6% of Indonesians are fully vaccinated (15% have had one dose), and many of them received the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, which has a relatively low efficacy rate.
What’s next: Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines all initially relied on Chinese-made vaccines but have purchased Pfizer or Moderna and are expecting large shipments soon.
Screengrab via Apple Maps
We’re visiting one of five cities to host the Summer Olympics multiple times. We'll start with a palace tour (purple pin) and then head to the National Stadium (red pin), the main Olympic venue.
Can you name the city, and the four others? Scroll to the bottom for the answer.
Claude Joseph (C) is stepping aside in Haiti. Photo: Alerie Baerisyl/AFP via Getty
1. Haiti's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph is stepping down in favor of the man President Jovenel Moïse had picked to replace him two days before being assassinated, Joseph told the Washington Post today.
2. Governments are using spyware from Israeli firm NSO, originally designed to track terrorists and criminals, to hack smartphones belonging to journalists and activists, an international journalism consortium reports.
3. Afghanistan is pulling its diplomats out of Pakistan after its ambassador's daughter was kidnapped and tortured in Islamabad, according to the Afghan Foreign Ministry. She was later released.
4. Russia has embraced the junta in Myanmar in the wake of February's coup, convening high-level meetings, discussing arms sales and proving once again that a pariah to the West is a friend to Moscow.
5. More than 1 million people each day in Cuba are using an anti-censorship tool supported by the U.S. government to circumvent their own government's social media blackouts.
The Laschet (C) laugh. Photo: Marius Becker/POOL/AFP via Getty
After winning the race to become Angela Merkel's heir apparent as leader of Germany's center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), Armin Laschet has had his share of struggles.
The big picture: The governor of Germany's largest state, North-Rhine Westphalia, Laschet is a centrist in the Merkel mold, but lacks her popularity, as has been confirmed by polls ahead of September's election.
Then came the floods that have left over 160 Germans dead — and Laschet's biggest blunder yet.
A family on a bench in Galicia, Spain. Photo: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
“President Moon is engaged in a tug of war with only himself.”— A Japanese diplomat labeling a planned visit by South Korea’s president ahead of the Olympics as “masturbating” because Japan didn’t have time to worry about relations with South Korea at the moment. Moon canceled the visit over the remark.
Answer: Tokyo. Other repeat hosts: Athens (1896, 2004); Paris (1900, 1924, 2024); London (1908, 1948, 2012); Los Angeles (1932, 1984, 2028).