The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday September 9.

Government emails reveal vaccine delay. 

Pfizer urged Australia's health minister to kick off negotiations on a vaccine deal in June last year as other nations clinched agreements with the pharmaceutical giant. 

Emails released under the opposition's freedom of information request show Pfizer made first contact with the government on June 26 last year.

A high-ranking health bureaucrat was offered a meeting with senior global Pfizer bosses if Health Minister Greg Hunt or departmental leadership was involved.

"As the vaccine development landscape is moving swiftly, including through engagements with other nations, I am requesting this meeting occur at the earliest opportunity," the company's representative said.

The email also attached a letter to Mr Hunt requesting a meeting to open discussions about a potential vaccine deal.

Health Department first assistant secretary Lisa Schofield replied three days later saying she would meet with the company.

On July 6, Pfizer said the government would need to sign a confidential disclosure agreement for senior figures to provide detail about the company's approach.

Ms Schofield replied two days later telling Pfizer it was not usual practice to sign such agreements as officials were legally required to keep discussions secret.

An introductory meeting on July 10 was agreed to instead.

Health Department notes from the discussion show Pfizer wanted to speed up the process and rapidly deploy doses.


Almost two weeks later Pfizer told the government the UK and US had signed vaccine deals with the company.

The minister's office first met with Pfizer representatives on August 4 and Australia's first 10 million-dose deal was signed in November.

Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler said the government deliberately took a "wait-and-see" approach.

"Australians are paying the price of Scott Morrison's incompetence; we have more people in lockdown and fewer people fully vaccinated than any other developed country."

Man arrested for murder of Australian woman in Georgia.

A man has been arrested for the murder of Melbourne woman Shanae Edwards more than a month after she was found dead in the eastern European country of Georgia. 

Known only as "RM" the 33-year-old was taken into custody after DNA testing was used to "unequivocally" link the suspect to Ms Edwards, who was on the phone to a friend when she was allegedly attacked on July 30. 


More than 200 people were interviewed, with hundreds of police involved in the investigation. 

Ms Edwards, 31, had been in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi for two years and was a teacher by trade. 

She was hiking on Mount Mtatsminda when she was killed and has been described by friends online as "one of the toughest women I have ever met in my life" and "full of laughter."

Australia set to issue vaccine passports next month.

Australia has cleared coronavirus vaccine passports for takeoff from next month in preparation for international jetsetting.

Travel is not expected to start until vaccination coverage for people aged 16 and over reaches 80 per cent, which is likely months away.

The first international immunisation passports are set to be rolled out in October with all vaccines approved by Australia's medicines regulator recognised for inbound travel.

Immunisation information could automatically be linked to Australian passports for people entering the country.

Those travelling overseas could use a QR code through an international app.

A spokesman for Stuart Robert, the cabinet minister in charge of digital and data policy, said further details would be released soon.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison said home quarantine would be key for restarting international travel with premiers asked to provide timetables about introducing the measure.

A trial in South Australia has involved 50 people using geolocation and facial recognition technology to ensure they are at home for two weeks of isolation.

State governments are also forging ahead with plans to link vaccination status to check-in apps which would allow people to be allowed into venues.

But Labor is calling for a nationally consistent approach, with forgery protections and assurances about data accuracy.

NSW govt to unveil lockdown exit plans.

NSW residents will soon learn their path out of COVID-19 lockdown with the state government preparing to release its long-promised roadmap of freedoms.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian will reveal the details of the plan on Thursday after receiving sign-off from the state government's crisis cabinet on Wednesday evening, according to media reports.

Greater Sydney has been locked down since June 26 as authorities battle the Delta strain of coronavirus, with the rest of the state joining the stay-at-home regime last month.

Ms Berejiklian has vowed that an easing of the lockdown will start once 70 per cent of the state's over-16 population has received two doses of the vaccine.

With more than 75 per cent of the population now at least partly immunised against the virus, that threshold is expected to be met in mid-October.


Bars, restaurants and retail settings should reopen - with capacity limits - on October 18, according to a report in The Australian.

Some regional areas may trial aspects of reopening before that date.

The premier on Wednesday said she was putting the "final touches" on the roadmap.

Meanwhile, the mid and north coast of NSW, and the Riverina region in the south west, will be released from lockdown on Friday, the ABC reports.

Cops swamp regional Vic for lockdown end.

Hundreds of police are headed for regional Victoria to keep Melburnians from fleeing as country residents prepare to revel in more COVID-19 freedoms.

All of regional Victoria except for Greater Shepparton is set to exit lockdown just before midnight on Thursday, with cafes, restaurants and bars able to fling open their doors with strict patron limits.

About 200 police officers will be sent to patrol the edges of Melbourne and Shepparton to ensure people do not leave locked-down areas.

Booze buses, random checkpoints, roving patrols and number plate recognition technology will be used to catch out rule-breakers, rather than the "ring of steel" approach adopted last year.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent conceded some Melburnians might be tempted to try their luck, but warned they faced a $5452 fine.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton described the changes in regional Victoria as a "safe first step", despite five of Wednesday's 221 new cases being reported in Moorabool, Mildura, the Latrobe Valley, Mitchell Shire and Bellarine Peninsula.


Nearly half of ACT over-16s fully jabbed.

Nearly half of Canberra's over-16s are fully vaccinated, but ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr wants to see higher coverage before significantly easing lockdown restrictions.

The territory recorded 20 new infections on Wednesday. At least seven people were in the community for some of the time while infectious.

The ACT also became the first jurisdiction in Australia to crack an 80 per cent full vaccination for people aged in their 70s and older. 

Having a majority of Canberrans fully vaccinated is expected to occur within days.

Canberra's twice-extended lockdown is currently scheduled to run until midnight on September 17.

But Mr Barr warns restrictions cannot not ease significantly without higher vaccination rates across the board.

Novavax begins Aust trial for combined vax.

Vaccine developer Novavax Inc will start trials in Australia to test its combined flu and COVID-19 vaccine.

The trial will comprise 640 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 70 years who have either been previously infected with the coronavirus or given an authorised COVID-19 vaccine at least eight weeks prior to the study.


Participants will receive a combination of the company's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, and its influenza shot, NanoFlu, along with an adjuvant or vaccine booster.

"Combination of these two vaccines ... may lead to greater efficiencies for the healthcare system and achieve high levels of protection against COVID-19 and influenza with a single regimen," Novavax President of Research and Development Gregory Glenn said in a statement.

Novavax had said in May it expected seasonal influenza and COVID-19 combination vaccines to likely be critical in combating emerging COVID-19 variants. 

Its vaccine NanoFlu/NVX-CoV2373 had elicited robust responses to both influenza A and B and protected against the coronavirus in pre-clinical studies.

Novavax expects the trial results in the first half of 2022.

Mandatory jabs for truckies entering SA.

Coronavirus vaccinations will be mandatory for truckies who want to enter South Australia from high-risk areas.

Some 900 locals are in quarantine after six transport workers crossed into the state and later tested positive to COVID-19.

"We're working towards mandatory vaccination for the transport sector here in South Australia," Premier Steven Marshall said on Wednesday.

He said there would be "some carve-outs", including firms operating on either side of the border in a bubble arrangement.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Emily Kirkpatrick said mandatory vaccinations for truck drivers from restricted or prohibited areas would be finalised by "the end of the month".


Afghan women banned from playing sport.

Afghan women, including the country's women's cricket team, will be banned from playing sport under the new Taliban government.

In an interview with SBS, the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, said women’s sport was considered neither appropriate nor necessary.

“I don't think women will be allowed to play cricket because it is not necessary that women should play cricket,” Wasiq said. “In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this.

“It is the media era, and there will be photos and videos, and then people watch it. Islam and the Islamic Emirate [Afghanistan] do not allow women to play cricket or play the kind of sports where they get exposed.”

Australia's one-off Test against Afghanistan is in serious doubt with Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck calling on world cricket's governing body to take action against the Taliban-led country, following its ban on women's sport.

The Australia-Afghanistan men's cricket test is scheduled for Bellerive Oval in Hobart in November, but if the match goes ahead it will be seen as supporting the Taliban's stance.

Afghan women protesting in Kabul against the Taliban removing their rights in the country. Image: Bilal Guler/Anadolu Agency/Getty.


Colbeck said Afghan athletes would "remain welcome in Australia, but not under the flag of the Taliban".

He is also calling on the International Cricket Council to take a stand against the Taliban, given their controversial position.

Biden delivers 'code red' climate plea.

President Joe Biden has visited a New York City still reeling from Hurricane Ida's wrath, touring hard-hit sections of New Jersey and Queens and speaking with locals before issuing an urgent plea for action to combat climate change.

"Even the climate skeptics are seeing that this really does matter," the president said.


"The evidence is clear: Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives and our economy. And the threat is here. It's not going to get any better."

"The nation and the world are in peril," Biden said. "This is Code Red."

On Monday, Biden approved a major disaster declaration for parts of New York City, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pump out direct cash relief to storm victims.

Around the world.

- The main suspect in a jihadist rampage that killed 130 people across Paris has described himself defiantly as "an Islamic State soldier" and shouted at the top judge at the start of a trial into the 2015 attacks.

- The suspension in the quarantine free travel arrangement between NZ and Australia was due to expire on September 18, but Jacinda Ardern says it won't be reviewed until "later in September," reiterating that "the reopening is a while away."

- Nxivm co-founder Nancy Salzman, 66, has been sentenced to over three years in prison for her role in the suspected sex cult. The group's leader was sentenced to 120 years in October.

- Unseeded teenager Leylah Fernandez, 19, has continued her stunning run at the US Open with victory over Elina Svitolina to reach the semifinals. 

- With AAP

Feature image:  Rohan Thomson/Getty/Facebook/Bilal Guler/Anadolu Agency/Getty. 

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