Malawi Runs Out Of Coronavirus Vaccines As Second Jabs Due

Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda (C) lifts out a pack of expired Covid-19 Astra Zeneca from a transit box at an official ceremony at a pharmaceutical incinerator where the vaccines are to be destroyed at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on May 19, 2021.

 

Delays in coronavirus vaccine shipments to Malawi have caused health facilities to run out of doses as hundreds are due to receive a second shot, the health minister said Saturday.

The southern African country has so far received 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United Nations, 102,000 from the African Union and 50,000 donated by India.

Inoculations started in April and the country was expecting a second UN shipment of 900,000 by the end of May, four weeks before the first vaccinated Malawians would be due a second dose.

READ ALSO: Pilgrims Flock To Mount Arafat In High Point Of Pandemic-Era Hajj

But Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo said that batch had been delayed by a recent surge in coronavirus cases in India, the world’s main AstraZeneca supplier, which forced the country to temporarily halt major vaccine exports to meet local demand.

“The situation in India has delayed the supply,” Kandodo told AFP on Saturday, adding that the vaccines would only arrive in July or August.

Hundreds of people seeking to get vaccinated were turned away from Malawi’s main Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe this week.

“The hospital has told us that there is nothing they can do because they simply do not have vaccines,” taxi driver Geoffrey Ngwale told AFP on Friday, distraught by the inability to receive a second dose on time.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned in April that India’s vaccine supply delay would undermine inoculation plans on the continent.

Africa has been slower than other regions in immunising its population against coronavirus.

Only two percent of Africans had received at least one vaccine jab at the start of June, compared to 24 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization.

Malawi hopes to inoculate around 11 million people — 60 percent of the population — by the end of 2021.

But just over 380,600 people in Malawi have received the first shot so far, of which more than 33,200 are now fully vaccinated.

Widespread vaccine hesitancy has also hindered the rollout.

The government was forced to destroy 17,000 expired vaccines last month due to low turnout.

AFP

Free Beer And Doughnuts To Promote COVID-19 Vaccines In US

A health worker prepares a dose to inoculate a woman with the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a school-turned-vaccination centre in New Delhi on May 5, 2021.
Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

 

Free beer, free doughnuts, savings bonds — government officials and businesses are teaming up to encourage Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

President Joe Biden wants 70 percent of adults to have received at least one shot by Independence Day on July 4 and overcoming vaccine hesitancy is key to reaching the goal.

“We know there are millions of Americans who need a little bit of encouragement to get the shot,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

Some 56 percent of American adults — more than 145 million people — have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine but the pace of vaccination has been declining lately.

Federal, state and local officials are partnering with pharmacies, restaurants, breweries, supermarkets and sports teams to come up with incentives to get people to get their shots.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy launched a “Shot and a Beer” program to encourage vaccination.

“Any New Jerseyan who gets their first vaccine dose in the month of May and takes their vaccination card to a participating brewery will receive a free beer,” Murphy tweeted.

The offer is only open, of course, to residents of the “Garden State” who are over the age of 21, the legal drinking age in the United States.

Governor Ned Lamont of the state of Connecticut unveiled a similar “Free Drink” promotion with participating restaurants last month.

In Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents of the nation’s capital to “come get vaccinated and grab a beer, on us” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

– ‘Motivate them’ –
In West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice announced that the state will offer $100 savings bonds to residents aged 16 to 35 who get vaccinated.

“Our kids today probably don’t really realize just how important they are in shutting this thing down,” Justice said. “I’m trying to come up with a way that’s truly going to motivate them -– and us -– to get over the hump.”

“They’re not taking vaccines as fast as we’d like them to take them,” Justice said. “If we really want to move the needle, we’ve got to get our younger people vaccinated.”

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said state employees who get vaccinated will receive $100.

They also must agree to receive any booster shots recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or they will have to reimburse the $100.

“Incentives like this are another way to reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated, and we strongly encourage businesses across the state to consider offering incentives to their workers as well,” Hogan said.

Krispy Kreme is offering a free glazed doughnut to anyone who presents their Covid-19 vaccination card at one of its stores.

According to a survey conducted in March by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 25 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 are adopting a “wait and see” attitude towards being vaccinated.

Among US adults, 61 percent said they had been vaccinated or intended to do so as soon as possible while 17 percent said they were adopting a “wait and see” approach and 13 percent said they will “definitely not” get vaccinated.

Yankees Stadium Becomes Vaccination Site For New York’s Poor

In the Yankees stadium, residents of the Bronx are supposed to have an appointment to get the Covid-19 vaccine, but many say the process is too complicated and wait for hours for the shot.
(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

 

 

Defying the cold and rain, hundreds of people bundled up in thick coats came to get vaccinated Friday in the famous Yankees baseball stadium in the Bronx, a New York borough that has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s like a choice between life and death,” said Ines Figueroa, 64, a Puerto Rican resident of the Bronx, after receiving the shot. Her husband died in January of complications linked to the virus which she too contracted, although without developing any symptoms.

The positivity rate in the Bronx is the highest in all of New York’s five boroughs: it was at 6.67 percent Friday, double the rate in the wealthier area of Manhattan, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said.

That is why the authorities in this traditionally Democratic bastion of the city decided to reserve the vaccinations on offer at the stadium exclusively for residents of the Bronx.

– ‘Equity and fairness’ –
Since the start of the pandemic last March, the death rate in New York’s Black and Latino communities has been double that of their white counterparts.

That same racial disparity has played out across the United States, where more than 453,000 people have died of the disease.

Yet these same minorities have until now received fewer vaccinations than other communities.

In New York, figures released on Sunday show that among the 500,000 doses of vaccine already administered, only 15 percent went to Hispanic people, even though they represent 30 percent of the population of eight million. And 11 percent went to African Americans, who make up 25 percent of the population.

“This is about equity. This is about fairness,” said left-leaning Mayor Bill de Blasio at the entrance to the stadium. “This is about protecting people who need the most protection because the Bronx is one of the places that bore the brunt of this crisis of the coronavirus.”

Of the 15,000 appointments on offer in the coming days, some 13,000 have been allocated on Friday.

 

Almost half the vaccine doses in New York City have been given to white people, although they make up only 32 percent of the population
(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

 

– ‘Troubling’ –
Although in principle the Yankees stadium only offers vaccinations by appointment, many people in line on Friday did not have one. For many, the registration process is not up to scratch, requiring a strong internet connection, a good knowledge of English, and sometimes hours of patience.

After trying in vain for 15 days to get an appointment, Manuel Rosario, 76, managed to get a shot at the stadium on Friday, after standing in line for four hours.

“There should be three more centers like this in the Bronx,” said Rosario, who contracted Covid without symptoms in April. At this rate, “they will have finished vaccinating everyone in two years,” he said.

That relative slowness in rollout due to a shortage of vaccines has been echoed across the country. That is why, to date, only 8.4 percent of Americans have been immunized, according to official data.

“It is deeply troubling that we could be right now doing 400,000, 500,000 vaccinations a week, and we can’t get supply,” said de Blasio.

Distrust of the authorities, a glut of fake news that the vaccine is dangerous, or fear of arrest for undocumented migrants had also contributed to the slow vaccination of minorities, according to experts.

“It has to work out because we are all human beings and we all need the vaccine to survive,” says Manuel Rosario.

Like him, Mercedes Ferreras, a 73-year-old Dominican, came on Friday without an appointment. “I have a computer, but I don’t know how to use it,” she explained.

The same went for Fausto Lopez, 72, who came even though a friend tried to dissuade him, telling him that the vaccine would be a pretext for implanting a chip that would turn him into “a robot”.

“There is too much false information,” said the retired cleaner, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and has already undergone seven operations.

“The vaccine will change my life,” he said.

COVID-19: WHO Gives ‘Emergency’ Approval To Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

The World Health Organization on Thursday granted emergency validation to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, paving the way for countries worldwide to quickly approve its import and distribution.

Britain launched its inoculation drive with the US-German vaccine on December 8, with the United States, Canada and EU countries following suit.

WHO said the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to receive its “emergency validation” since the novel coronavirus first broke out in China a year ago.

“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Mariangela Simao, a top WHO official tasked with ensuring access to medicines.

“But I want to emphasise the need for an even greater global effort to achieve enough vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere,” she said in a statement.

READ ALSO: China Approves Home-Made COVID-19 Vaccine

WHO said its emergency use listing opens the way for regulators in different countries to approve the import and distribution of the vaccine.

It said it also enables UNICEF, which plays a key logistical role in distributing anti-Covid vaccines, and the Pan-American Health Organization to procure the vaccine for countries that need it.

WHO convened its own experts and those from around the world to review the data on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s “safety, efficacy and quality,” weighing the benefits against the risks.

“The review found that the vaccine met the must-have criteria for safety and efficacy set out by WHO, and that the benefits of using the vaccine to address COVID-19 offset potential risks,” it said.

AFP

UK Approves Astrazeneca/Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine

 

A coronavirus vaccine developed by drug firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University has been approved for use in Britain, the government said Wednesday, adding the mass rollout will start on January 4.

The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions, and is therefore cheaper and easier to administer than the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna jabs that require freezing.

Britain will become the first nation to roll out the jab on January 4, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, amid mounting concerns that another dangerous spike in infections threatens to overwhelm the NHS.

“Brilliant to end 2020 with such a moment of hope,” tweeted Hancock.

“The #coronavirus vaccine is our way out of the pandemic — now we need to hold our nerve while we get through this together.”

The government said in a statement earlier that it had “today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use.

“This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” said the Department of Health and Social Care spokesman.

On Sunday, AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the vaccine provides “100 percent protection” against severe COVID disease requiring hospitalisation.

He predicted trials would show his firm had achieved a vaccine efficacy equal to Pfizer-BioNTech at 95 per cent and Moderna at 94.5 per cent.

Earlier trials had shown varying outcomes in the AstraZeneca shot’s efficacy.

The vaccine intially showed an average 70 per cent effectiveness but that level jumped to 90 per cent depending on the dosage regime.

Behind this average figure from large-scale trials in the UK and Brazil was a 62 percent effectiveness for those who were vaccinated with two full doses of the shot.

For volunteers who received a half-dose first and then a full dose one month later, however, the vaccine was found to have 90 per cent efficacy.

Saudi Arabia Approves Pfizer-BioNTech Virus Vaccine

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY: A nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, on December 8, 2020. PHOTO: Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

Saudi Arabia on Thursday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech novel coronavirus vaccine, state media reported, becoming the second Gulf country after Bahrain to green-light the drug.

“The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA)… has approved the registration of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” it said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.

READ ALSO: Israel Gets First Delivery Of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

“Health authorities in the kingdom can import and use the vaccine,” it added.

The SFDA did not specify when it would begin the rollout of the vaccine by US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Last week, Bahrain announced it had approved the emergency use of the same vaccine.

Britain and Canada have also approved it.

American regulators are due to meet on Thursday to assess the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency approval in the United States, the worst-hit nation with more than 15 million known infections and close to 290,000 deaths.

The US Food and Drug Administration is likely to issue an allergy warning if it approves the vaccine, following Britain’s lead, after two health care workers there suffered reactions and needed treatment.

The SFDA said it will analyse samples from “each incoming vaccine shipment before using it” to ensure quality standards.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded nearly 360,000 novel coronavirus cases, including more than 6,000 deaths –- the highest in the Gulf. But the kingdom has also reported a high recovery rate.

Companies have been racing to find a vaccine for the virus, which has killed over 1.5 million people and infected more than 68 million since it emerged in China in December of last year.

AFP

Israel Gets First Delivery Of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

Israel received its first batch of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Wednesday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring the pandemic’s end was “in sight” and vowing to get the first jab.

“This is a great celebration for Israel,” he said on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, as a fork-lift truck started unloading the cargo from a red and yellow DHL air freighter.

The shipment was the first of eight million doses ordered from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

It came ahead of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which begins on Thursday.

“The end is in sight,” Netanyahu said about the disease which has infected 348,948 Israelis, 2,932 of them fatally, according to a Wednesday update.

“What is important to me is that Israeli citizens get vaccinated,” he added.

“I want to serve as an example to them and I intend to be the first to be injected with this vaccine in the state of Israel.”

Read Also: 90-Year-Old British Grandmother First To Receive Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine has yet to receive the necessary regulatory approvals for use in Israel but Netanyahu said he expected it to receive clearance “in the very near” future.

The results of third-phase clinical trials showed that the vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 symptoms and did not produce adverse side effects among thousands of volunteers.

Britain started inoculating its citizens with the vaccine on Tuesday.

Israel has also contracted to buy six million Covid-19 vaccine doses from US biotech firm Moderna which are expected to be delivered in 2021, giving a total of 14 million shots for its population of nine million.

 

This combination of file pictures created on August 05, 2020 shows a sign for Pfizer pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2017, and the Moderna headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 18, 2020. DOMINICK REUTER, Joseph Prezioso / AFP

 

Both medications require two doses to be administered for optimal protection.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at the ultra-low temperature of -70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit), posing handling and storage challenges.

– ‘Amazing’ facilities –
At the airport, Netanyahu praised “our amazing logistical storage centre, which is a few minutes from here, with refrigeration and the highest medical standards in the world”.

Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown in September, when the country had one of the world’s highest per capita infection rates.

Restrictions have since been gradually eased but infection rates are again on the rise.

On Monday, Netanyahu’s office announced a sweeping night-time curfew but it has so far not received the cabinet approval required for its implementation and no details have been published.

Israel’s government has not yet commented on whether its vaccine procurement would cater for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority says that over 75,500 people have so far been infected with coronavirus in the West Bank and 712 have died.

In the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip there have been about 25,500 infections and 155 fatalities.

On Monday, the strip’s Hamas rulers said Gaza had received 20,000 test kits from the World Health Organization, after warning it could no longer perform testing due to a shortage of equipment.

Facing a surge in cases, Hamas has also announced a lockdown on weekends lasting from December 11 to the end of the month. It also closed schools, universities, kindergartens and mosques.

AFP

90-Year-Old British Grandmother First To Receive Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

Margaret Keenan (C), 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first person to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, on December 8, 2020. PHOTO: JACOB KING / POOL / AFP

 

A 90-year-old British grandmother became the first person in a Western country to receive an approved coronavirus vaccine, as Britain rolled out  Pfizer-BioNTech’s drug in the biggest inoculation drive in its history.

Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said it was “the best early birthday present” and added: “My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.”

Britain last week became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, raising hopes of a breakthrough in the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.5 million worldwide.

Britain has been one of the worst-affected countries in the world, with more than 61,000 deaths in the outbreak from 1.6 million cases.

Nurse May Parsons (R) administers the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid vaccine on Margaret Keenan. JACOB KING / POOL / AFP

 

Keenan received the jab in front of cameras at a hospital in the central English city of Coventry, followed by an elderly man called William Shakespeare.

The jab was administered by May Parsons, a nurse originally from the Philippines who has worked for Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) for 23 years.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Keenan, a former jewelry shop worker who has two children and four grandchildren.

The over-80s care home workers and at-risk frontline health and social care staff are first in line to get the jab, on what has been dubbed “V-Day”. A second jab is required in 21 days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent days in intensive care with Covid-19 earlier this year, called it a “huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus”.

The head of the state-run National Health Service in England, Simon Stevens, said it was a “decisive turning point” against the “greatest health challenge” since the NHS was founded in 1948.

Regulatory approval for the vaccine was given last Wednesday, sparking a race against time to prepare scores of vaccination centres across the country.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the jab — enough to vaccinate 20 million people — with 800,000 in the first batch.

Up to four million doses are expected by the end of December.

 

– Queen could lead way –

The mass vaccination drive is a coordinated response by all four nations of the UK — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — which normally set their own health policies.

The public has been largely favourable to the rapid approval of the vaccine, but ministers and health professionals are aware they still need to combat mistrust.

The independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency maintains that no corners were cut and its assessment and approval procedures met stringent international norms.

NHS England said thousands had already been given the jab during trials with no serious side effects.

Nevertheless, it has been reported Queen Elizabeth II, who at 94 is among those first in the line for the vaccination because of her age, could front a public awareness campaign urging compliance.

The government said it would hand out vaccine cards to remind people to get the booster after three weeks, but insisted it was not introducing immunity certificates.

– ‘Marginal impact’ in winter –

The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the vaccine would as a result only have a “marginal impact” on hospital numbers over the winter months.

Johnson called for patience and urged the public to stick to strict social distancing guidelines to prevent a spike in cases, particular as rules are relaxed over Christmas.

Health officials have already run into a logistical headache about how to administer the vaccine to elderly or infirm care home residents.

The vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit), leaving hospitals and other medical hubs as the only places able to deal with such ultra-low temperatures.

With the Pfizer-BioNTech drug made in Belgium, concerns have also been raised about potential disruption to supply when Britain leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union.

But the UK government said the military is on stand-by to air-lift the vaccine if there is any border disruption from January 1.

The bulk of Britain’s vaccine requirements are expected to be met by a jab developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, which is awaiting regulatory approval.

The government has ordered an initial 100 million doses of the drug, which is cheaper to manufacture, and easier to store and transport using conventional fridges.

AFP