WASHINGTON: Pfizer and BioNTech said they would seek authorisation for a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine to boost its efficacy as the Delta variant drove devastating outbreaks in Asia, including in Thailand where fresh curbs were announced on Friday.

With the pandemic once again wreaking havoc, Japan banned fans from most Olympic events and placed Tokyo under a virus state of emergency throughout the games just two weeks before the opening ceremony.

The highly-transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is sweeping across the globe as countries race to vaccinate their populations to ward off fresh outbreaks.

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Thursday they expected that a third dose would perform well against the strain, and that they would be seeking authorisation in the United States, Europe and other regions in coming weeks.

Initial data from an ongoing trial showed a third shot pushed antibody levels five to 10 times higher against the original coronavirus strain and the Beta variant, first detected in South Africa, compared with the first two doses alone, according to a statement.

The companies said they expected similar results for Delta — but added they were also developing a vaccine specifically tailored to fight the deadly strain.

The news came as Thailand battled a fresh outbreak on its shores, forcing authorities to roll out fresh restrictions, including a 9pm to 4am curfew in Bangkok and banning non-essential travel across the country, normally overrun by tourists at this time of year.

“This will support disease control efficiently. Thailand will be victorious,” said Apisamai Srirangson, assistant spokeswoman for the government’s coronavirus taskforce.

Japan meanwhile grappled with planning for the upcoming Olympic Games, which would be held later this month with no spectators.

Delta currently accounts for around 30 per cent of cases, and officials imposed a new state of emergency on the capital to fight off rising infections.

The Olympic flame arrived in the Japanese capital on Friday, in a muted finish to a nationwide torch relay that was supposed to stoke excitement about the games but which has been taken off public roads or otherwise altered because of virus concerns.

Elsewhere in Asia, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City went into a two-week lockdown, with residents now barred from gathering in groups larger than pairs in public, and people are only allowed to leave home to buy food, medicine and in case of emergencies.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2021

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