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Only ‘a trickle’ of Covid-19 vaccines for Africa’s 1.3 billion people

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Only ‘a trickle’ of Covid-19 vaccines for Africa’s 1.3 billion people. In the global race to vaccinate people against Covid-19, Africa is tragically at the back of the pack.

In fact, it has barely gotten out of the starting blocks.

In South Africa, which has the continent’s most robust economy and its biggest coronavirus caseload, just 0.8 per cent of the population is completely vaccinated, according to a worldwide tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University. And hundreds of thousands of the country’s health workers, many of whom come face-to-face with the virus every day, are still waiting for their shots.

In Nigeria, Africa’s biggest country with more than 200 million people, only 0.1 per cent are completely protected. Kenya, with 50 million people, is even lower. Uganda has recalled dosages from provincial areas because it doesn’t have almost enough to fight outbreaks in big cities.

Chad didn’t administer its first vaccine shots until this past weekend. And there are at least five other countries in Africa where not one portion has been put into an arm, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccine simultaneously another wave of infections is ascending across Africa. Vaccine shipments into Africa have ground to a “close to halt,” WHO said last week.

“It is extremely concerning and at times frustrating,” said Africa CDC Director Dr John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist who is trying to ensure some of the world’s poorest nations get a fair share of vaccines in a marketplace where they can’t possibly compete.

The United States and Britain, in contrast, have completely vaccinated more than 40 per cent of their populations, with higher rates for adults and high-risk people. Countries in Europe are close or past 20 per cent coverage, and their citizens are starting to think about where their vaccine certificates might take them on their summer vacations. The US, France and Germany are in any event, offering shots to youngsters, who are at very generally safe of serious sickness from Covid-19.

Poorer countries had warned as far back as last year of this impending vaccine inequality, fearful that rich nations would store dosages.

In an interview, Nkengasong called on the leaders of wealthy nations meeting this week at the G-7 summit to share spare vaccines — something the United States has already agreed to do — and avert a “ethical catastrophe.”

“I’d prefer to believe that the G-7 countries, most of them having kept abundance portions of vaccines, want to be on the right side of history,” Nkengasong said. “Distribute those vaccines. We need to actually see these vaccines, not just … promises and goodwill.”

Others are not so patient, nor so diplomatic.

“People are dying. Time is against us. This IS INSANE,” South African human rights lawyer Fatima Hasan, an activist for equivalent access to health care, wrote in a progression of text messages.

The Biden administration made its first significant move to facilitate the crisis last week, announcing it would share an initial batch of 25 million spare portions with desperate countries in South and Central America, Asia and Africa.

Nkengasong and his team were in contact with White House officials daily later, he said, with a list of countries where the 5,000,000 portions earmarked for Africa could go to immediately.

Still, the US offer is only a “trickle” of what’s needed, Hasan wrote.

Billionaire British philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, who was born in Sudan, added his voice to the issue, saying the pandemic-time expression of “nobody is safe until everybody is safe” — often repeated by leaders of wealthy nations — would be useless until they shared their abundance vaccines.

“They say that while they are storing the vaccine,” Ibrahim said. “Can you walk the talk? Stop just talking like parrots, you know, and do you really mean what you said?”

Africa alone is facing a shortfall of around 700 million portions, even after taking into account those secured through WHO’s vaccine program for poorer countries, COVAX, and a deal with Johnson and Johnson, which comes through in August, two long months away.

Uganda just released a batch of 3,000 vaccine dosages in the capital, Kampala — a minuscule amount for a city of two million — to keep its program barely alive.

There and elsewhere, the fear is that the karma that somehow enabled parts of Africa to escape the worst of previous waves of Covid-19 infections and deaths might not hold this time.

“The first Covid was a joke, but this one is for real. It kills,” said Danstan Nsamba, a taxi driver in Uganda who has lost numerous people he knew to the virus.

In Zimbabwe, Chipo Dzimba embarked on a quest for a vaccine after witnessing Covid-19 deaths in her community. She walked miles to a church mission hospital, where there were none, and miles again to a district hospital, where nurses also had nothing and told her to go to the region’s principle government hospital. That was too far away.

“I’m surrendering,” Dzimba said. “I don’t have the bus fare.”

South African health workers faced comparative disappointment when they crowded into a parking garage last month, hoping for vaccinations and ignoring in their desperation the social distancing protocols. Many left away without a shot.

Femada Shamam, who is responsible for a group of advanced age homes in the South African city of Durban, has seen only around half of the 1,600 elderly and slight people she cares for vaccinated. It is six months, almost to the day, since Britain began the global vaccination drive.

“They do feel very despondent and they do feel let down,” Shamam said of her unvaccinated residents, who are experiencing “huge anxiety” as they dig in their sealed-off homes year and a half into the outbreak. Twenty-two of her residents have died of Covid-19.

“It really highlights the biggest problem … the haves and the have-nots,” Shamam said.

Concerning whether he’s confident wealthy countries with a surplus of vaccine have gotten the message, Nkengasong said: “I’m hopeful, but not really confident.”

Covid19

Covid-19 Delta variant cases jump by 33,630 of every multi week in UK, now make up 99% of country’s cases

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The number of Delta variant infections has jumped by 33,630 in seven days to hit a total of 75,953 in the UK, with the highly transmissible variant first identified in India now making up 99 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in the country, health officials said on Friday.

Public Health England (PHE), which has been tracking variant of concerns (VOCs) on a weekly basis, said its data shows an increased risk of hospitalization with Delta VOC compared to Alpha the VOC first detected in the Kent region of England.

It also pointed to its previous discoveries that two portions of a Covid vaccine gives a “high degree of protection” against hospitalization from the Delta variant.

“PHE’s weekly Covid-19 variant cases data show that numbers of the Delta variant in the UK have ascended by 33,630 since last week to a total of 75,953,” PHE reports.

INCREASED RISK OF Hospitalization

“The most recent data show 99 per cent of sequenced and genotyped cases across the country are the Delta variant. Data show an increased risk of hospitalization with Delta compared to Alpha, although PHE’s analysis shows that two dosages of vaccine gives a high degree of protection against hospitalization, estimated to be more than 90 per cent,” it said.

According to the analysis, as of June 14, a total of 806 people have been hospitalized with the Delta variant, an increase of 423 since last week. Of these, 527 were unvaccinated, and only 84 of the 806 had received both portions.

It finds that deaths are not high, as the case fatality rate remains low for Delta.

Notwithstanding, it points out that deaths tend to happen some weeks after an infection and it is therefore too ahead of schedule to judge the case fatality of Delta compared to Alpha or other VOCs.

“DON’T DROP YOUR GUARD”

“Cases are rising quickly across the country and the Delta variant is now dominant,” said Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency.

“The increase is fundamentally in younger age groups, a large proportion of which were unvaccinated but are now being invited to receive the vaccine. It is urging to see that hospitalisations and deaths are not increasing at a similar rate but we will continue to monitor it closely,” she said.

“The vaccination program and the care that we are generally taking to follow the direction are continuing to save lives. If it’s not too much trouble, ensure that you approach to receive both portions of the vaccine when you are eligible. Don’t drop your gatekeeper practice ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’ at all times,” she added.

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Israel says it will transfer around 1 million dosages of soon-to-expire coronavirus vaccine portions to the Palestinian Authority.

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Under the agreement announced Friday, the PA will transfer portions to Israel once it receives them from an UN-backed program to supply vaccines to needy countries.

Israel, which has vaccinated some 85 per cent of its adult population, has faced criticism for not imparting its vaccines to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

The agreement was announced by the new Israeli government that was sworn in on Sunday.

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Global failure to share vaccines equitably impacting world’s most vulnerable countries: WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that “global failure to share vaccines equitably” is fuelling a “two-track” Covid-19 pandemic, impacting some of world’s most vulnerable countries.

Taking up the issue of global disparities in distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, WHO said that countries like India and Nepal have suffered because of less dosages of the vaccine.

“Our global targets are to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, at least 40 per cent by the end of the year, and 70 per cent by the center of next year. These are the critical milestones we must reach together to end the Covid-19 pandemic,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

He went on to say that more than half of all high upper-center pay countries and economies have by now administered enough dosages to completely vaccinate at least 20 per cent of their populations, while just three out of 79 low-and lower-center pay countries have reached a similar level.

Earlier this week, the Group of Seven leaders (G-7) intend to end their first summit in two years with a punchy set of promises Sunday, including vaccinating the world against coronavirus.

The G-7 vowed to share vaccine dosages with less well-off nations that urgently need them. UK PM Boris Johnson said the group would pledge at least 1 billion dosages, with half of that coming from the United States and 100 million from Britain.

While WHO Director-General Tedros commended the vaccine pledge, he also said that it was “not enough”.

To truly end the pandemic, he said, 11 billion dosages are needed to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the world’s population by mid-2022.

“We need more and we need them faster,” Tedros said.

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