England Opens Mass Vaccination Sites As COVID-19 Spike Fears Spread

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to patients and staff at a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, southwest England on January 11, 2021. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP)

 

Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government raced to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country.

The sites include football stadiums and a horse racing course, and are located in cities including Bristol, London, Newcastle and Manchester.

They are to vaccinate thousands per week and several more sites are expected to follow, according to the National Health Service (NHS) in England.

“I feel very relieved,” said Moira Edwards, 88, after receiving her first vaccination at Epsom Downs Racecourse, south of London, which is more famous for the Derby.

“I feel this is the way back. I can’t understand anybody not wanting to have it,” she added.

The mainly elderly recipients of the jab, some of whom used walkers, sticks or were pushed in wheelchairs to get to the centre, were given “I’ve had my Covid vaccination” stickers.

READ ALSO: Cyprus Leader Ready To Attend UN Meet On Ending Deadlock

Hospitals and pharmacies are set to begin offering the vaccine later this week, with the government hoping to have doses available for 12 million of England’s 56 million population by mid-February.

A further three million are being targeted by the same date in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Priority is being given to the elderly, care home residents and workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable, and health and social care staff.

Some 2.4 million people have already been vaccinated across the UK since the roll-out began of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on December 8, according to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Britain has since approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna jabs. The government has drafted in logistics experts from the army to help in the inoculation drive.

– ‘Worst weeks’ –

Britain is grappling with its worst outbreak of the disease since it hit the country early last year.

The record case rates and daily death toll are being blamed on a new, more transmissible strain, which has piled pressure on the NHS, leading to warnings of shortages of critical care beds.

The state-run NHS risks being overwhelmed and the country is in its third lockdown until at least mid-February, with predictions the restrictions could last even longer.

In Northern Ireland, health chiefs said the province’s hospitals were under intense pressure, and two health trusts had to draft in off-duty staff to alleviate pressure due the spike in cases.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS,” England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty told BBC television on Monday.

“What we need to do, before the vaccines have had their effect… is we need to really double down” on observing lockdown measures, he added.

Britain on Saturday said it had recorded over three million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began last year.

On Friday, it reported a record 1,325 deaths over a 24-hour period of people who tested positive for the virus, with fears that the fatalities could remain consistently high for weeks.

The full death toll now stands at more than 80,000, the highest in Europe.

At Leatherhead, near Epsom, bodies were being stored in a temporary 1,400-capacity mortuary because there was no space at local hospitals.

The local council said 170 bodies, more than half of which had been Covid fatalities, were being held at the makeshift facility, but the county would be in “real difficulty” if numbers rose further.

Zahawi urged the public to follow the lockdown rules, which include school closures, that some have criticised for not being strict enough.

“In supermarkets, we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system rule,” he told Sky News.

“We don’t want to go any tougher because this is a pretty tough lockdown, but what we need is people to behave as if they’ve got the virus so we can bring this virus under control whilst we vaccinate.”

Celebrity Vaccinations Cause Outrage In Poland

Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

A hospital in Warsaw is under fire for giving out Covid-19 vaccine shots to celebrities and politicians, causing public outrage and sparking a government investigation that began on Monday.

Poland, which like much of Europe began its vaccination campaign on December 27, is currently only supposed to be vaccinating medical workers under a government plan.

But the Medical University of Warsaw hospital last week said it had also vaccinated 18 cultural figures who are intended to serve as ambassadors for the vaccination campaign.

The hospital said it had given out a total of 450 shots, including 300 for its own staff members and 132 for their families and patients.

The list of patients included some politicians.

Among the celebrities were actress Maria Seweryn, who is 45, singer Michal Bajor, 63, and Edward Miszczak, a 65-year-old TV journalist.

The unusual vaccinations first came to light when Leszek Miller, an MEP and former prime minister and regular patient at the hospital, tweeted a picture of a medical record showing he had received the vaccine on December 30.

READ ALSO: EU Defends Its Slow COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out

Some local politicians in other parts of Poland, including members of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, have also been heavily criticised for receiving the vaccine out of turn.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told PAP news agency on Saturday that “observing the rules of the vaccination sequence is an expression of respect for the rules of social solidarity”.

“There is no justification for breaking the rules,” he said, calling it “a real scandal”.

Government spokesman Piotr Muller on Monday said a government investigation had begun adding: “I hope that there will be punishment as early as today for all the guilty parties.”

Sanctions could include financial penalties and disciplinary proceedings, he said.

Poland is due to begin vaccinating seniors, teachers and members of the armed forces later this month. Only after that will the vaccine become available to the rest of the population of 38 million people.

Michal Dworczyk, the government official in charge of vaccinations, said on Monday that just over 50,000 people had been vaccinated in Poland so far and he expected 2.9 million to be vaccinated in the first three months of 2021.

Singapore Begins COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

A health worker takes a nasal swab test sample from an essential worker to detect the COVID-19 novel coronavirus before the workers return to work in Singapore on June 10, 2020. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP.

 

Singapore began a coronavirus vaccination campaign Wednesday with a nurse receiving the first jab, making it among the first Asian nations to roll out inoculations.

The city-state, which has suffered a mild outbreak, became the first country in Asia to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month, and its programme kicked off with healthcare workers.

Nurse Sarah Lim, 46, whose work includes screening suspected Covid-19 patients, was the first to be immunised, the health ministry said.

“I feel grateful and thankful for being the first to be vaccinated,” the nurse from the national centre for infectious diseases was cited as saying by the Straits Times newspaper.

More than 30 staff from the centre are receiving the first dose of the two-shot vaccine Wednesday, and will get the second next month.

After healthcare workers, the city-state will vaccinate the elderly, and then the rest of the population.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Five Things To Know About Landmark UK Vaccine

The government expects to have enough vaccines for all 5.7 million people in the city by the third quarter of 2021, with the voluntary vaccine free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents.

Other countries that have started immunisations include Britain, EU nations, and the United States, although most Asian nations are yet to begin.

In China, where the virus emerged, at least one million people have already received jabs after vaccine candidates were approved for emergency use, although they have so far been limited to priority groups such as state employees.

The inoculations are yet to receive official approval.

Vaccinations have been given in limited numbers in other parts of the region, including to members of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team, and to US troops stationed in South Korea.

Singapore has recorded about 58,000 infections, mostly among low-paid migrant workers living in crowded dormitories, and just 29 deaths.

South Asia Faces Fresh Health Crisis As Children Miss Vaccinations

A Chinese woman from Beijing, who is the first vaccine recipient to be inoculated with the monovalent Gardasil 9 human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer, receives the vaccination at Boao Super Hospital (BSH) in Boao, Qionghai city, south China's Hainan province, 30 May 2018. Stringer / Imaginechina

Stringer / Imaginechina / AFP.

 

South Asia could face a further public health crisis as children miss routine vaccinations, the UN warned Tuesday, spurring fears that the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic might reverse hard-earned gains in the region.

The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said hundreds of thousands were at risk as lockdowns across South Asia halted immunisation drives and parents refrained from taking their children to doctors to be inoculated.

“While the COVID-19 virus does not appear to make many children seriously ill, the health of hundreds of thousands of children could be impacted by this disruption of regular immunisation services,” said Jean Gough, director of UNICEF’s South Asia office.

“This is a very serious threat. Early action is key.”

Bangladesh and Nepal have halted their measles and rubella campaigns while Pakistan and Afghanistan have suspended their polio drives since the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO: UN Warns COVID-19 Could Double Food Insecurity In 9 African Countries

UNICEF noted that “sporadic” outbreaks of preventable diseases that can be cured with vaccines, including measles and diphtheria, have emerged in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

Vaccine stocks were also running low in some countries in the region thanks to lockdowns and travel bans which have disrupted supply chains.

“UNICEF strongly recommends that, where immunisation campaigns are suspended, governments begin rigorous planning now to intensify immunisation activities once the COVID -19 pandemic is under control,” the agency said in a statement.

It added that as long as health workers take hygiene precautions, there was no reason for vaccinations not to continue.

The agency estimated that 4.5 million of South Asia’s children had already missed out on routine immunisations, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan were struggling to vaccinate kids as local populations viewed inoculation teams with suspicion.

Opposition grew after the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

AFP

We Remain Committed To Financing Our Immunisation Obligations, Says Buhari

File Photo

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that his administration remains committed to finding sustainable ways of financing its immunisation and vaccination obligations.

The President gave the assurance on Tuesday at the State House in Abuja, while receiving in audience members of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), led by Dr Seth Berkley.

He thanked GAVI for its over one billion dollar support to Nigeria since 2001, especially through the provision of vaccines to millions of people across the country, noting that “we have experienced various fiscal and security challenges that have hindered our ability to fully finance the vaccines by 2021 as originally planned.

“I am, therefore, pleased that GAVI has extended its co-financing support period from 2021 to 2028, and has also committed over three billion dollars in new funding for vaccines, cold chain infrastructure and health system strengthening across the country.”

Speaking further, the president pledged that the Federal Government would continue to provide counterpart funds, as well as strategies to gradually improve fiscal sustainability by 2028.

On his part, Dr Berkley commended what he called “increase in national immunization coverage between 2016 and now”, saying there was excellent inter-ministerial collaboration to achieve the milestone.

He also urged state governments to invest in vaccination and immunisation, adding that poverty reduction must equally be a goal in the country.

Yellow Fever: Death Toll Increases To Seven, Govt Commences Vaccination

The death toll from the Yellow Fever outbreak in Bauch State has increased to seven, a situation which has prompted the state government to commence vaccination across the state.

Bauchi State government on Thursday announced the commencement of aerial spraying for aedes mosquito – the vector that transmits the yellow fever disease.

READ ALSO: Yellow Fever Kills Three In Bauchi

The state governor, Bala Mohammed explaining the purpose of the vaccination said that over N30 million is being expended to contain the virus in 20 local government areas of the state.

“The vaccination will allow us to stop this virus from spreading. I implore all citizens of Kano State to key into this exercise and not panic,” he said.

Governor Mohammed also warned against negative rumours that will undermine the “vaccination drive.”

The state government suspects the disease was transported by a foreign national during a tourist visit to the Yankari Games Reserve and more persons are being infected.

WHO Launches Second Cholera Vaccine In Yemen

 

The World Health Organization said Tuesday it was helping Yemeni authorities with the second round of vaccination against cholera in three hard-hit districts, as cases surged across the war-ravaged country.

More than 2,500 people have died of the waterborne infection since the worst cholera outbreak in Yemen’s history began in April 2017, while nearly one million more suspected cases have been reported across the country.

Children under the age of five make up nearly a third of all suspected cases.

Yemen’s cholera epidemic had seemed to lull for a while, but WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic warned of a new escalation.

“We have been seeing the number of cholera cases increasing in Yemen since June, and this increase has been even more important in the last three weeks,” he told reporters in Geneva.

During the first eight months of the year, Yemen registered nearly 155,000 suspected cholera cases, including 197 deaths.

But in the last week of August alone, 9,425 suspected cholera cases were recorded across the country, and just a week later, the number of suspected cases recorded soared to 11,478, WHO said.

WHO has warned Yemen faces a third cholera epidemic as autumn rains have increased the risk of infection after already being hit by two major cholera outbreaks in less than two years.

In a bid to prevent a “third wave”, WHO, UNICEF, and other partners began helping the government on September 30 to provide a second dose of the two-dose oral vaccination in three of the most vulnerable districts, he said.

In August, nearly 390,000 out of the more than 500,000 people targeted in Al-Hali and Al-Marawiah districts in Hodeida governorate and-in Hazm Al Udayn in Ibb governorate received the first dose.

The three districts “were assessed to be most vulnerable to an escalation of cholera,” Jasarevic said.

He said the same population would be targeted again, with the aim to vaccinate 540,000 people. Those who did not receive the first dose in August will need to get another dose down the line.

Cholera, which causes potentially deadly diarrhea, is contracted by ingesting food or water contaminated with a bacterium carried in human faeces and spread through poor sanitation and dirty drinking water.

Left untreated, it can kill within hours.

Yemen’s brutal conflict, which since 2015 has left some 10,000 people dead and eight million on the brink of famine, has created the perfect environment for cholera to thrive.

Save The Children warned Tuesday that Hodeida, the Yemeni port city on the front line between a pro-government alliance and rebels, had seen cases nearly triple in the past three months alone.

AFP

Mrs Amosun Leads Cancer Campaign In Abeokuta

Amosun-MrsWife of the Ogun State Governor, Mrs Olufunso Amosun, has challenged government at all levels, corporate organizations and individuals to stand up against breast and cervical cancer which have continued to pose serious  public health issues in Nigeria.

Mrs Amosun gave the challenge in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, after a campaign on cancer awareness and screening for tertiary school students and women across the state.

While promising that the current administration would settle the surgery bills of those detected to have the disease, she urged the women to embrace healthy lifestyles in order to maintain good health.

Experts at the awareness programme also recommended a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and control.

They agreed that cancer prevention and control should involve health education, as well as vaccinating girls before initiation to sexual activeness.

Japan gives Nigeria N1.24 billion to fight polio

Child receiving the polio vaccineThe Japanese government on Tuesday offered a US$ 7.85 million (about N1.24 billion) grant to the Nigeria government to help it combat the problem of polio in the country.

The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu who signed and received the grant on behalf of the Federal government, thanked the Japanese government for the kind gesture adding that Japan remains a major donor to the global health sector.

He said that this year, the federal government has increased its commitment against polio with N4.7 billion for eradication effort pointing out that Nigeria will be removed from polio endemic countries by 2013.

The Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Ryuichi Shoji who presented the grant said that Japan has been making sustained efforts to fight infectious diseases noting that it has been attempting to eradicate polio in collaboration with UNICEF as well as the government of Nigeria for more than ten years.

He said that Japan’s financial contribution in the fight against polio in Nigeria amounts to more than 7 billion yen (about N14 billion) and that though Nigeria has made significant progress in polio eradication, there is need to redouble efforts to eradicate the disease.

The UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Dr Suomi Sakai said that while Nigeria is making some progress in reducing its high child mortality rate, childhood killer diseases such as measles, tetanus and whooping cough are some of the challenges that needs to be addressed.

The World Health Organisation had last year reported a four-fold increase in polio in Nigeria, saying that about Forty-three cases of the disease were reported in 2011, compared to 11 in 2010.

The organisation insists that curbing the polio virus in Nigeria is the key to eradicating the crippling disease in Africa.

In 2003, northern Muslim leaders opposed vaccinations, claiming they could cause infertility.

Nigeria is one of four countries in the world – along with Pakistan, India and Afghanistan – where polio is still a major health risk.