US Preparing To Deploy Monkeypox Vaccines Amid More Probable Cases

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The United States is preparing to give monkeypox vaccines to close contacts of people infected and to deploy treatments, with five cases now either confirmed or probable and the number likely to rise, officials said Monday.

There is one confirmed US infection so far, in Massachusetts, and four other cases of people with orthopoxviruses — the family that monkeypox belongs to, senior officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a press briefing.

All the suspected cases are presumed to be monkeypox, pending confirmation by testing at CDC headquarters, said Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the division of high consequence pathogens and pathology.

One orthopoxvirus case is in New York, one in Florida and two in Utah. All those infected so far in the United States have been men who had a relevant travel history.

Genetic sequencing of the Massachusetts case matched that of a patient in Portugal and belonged to the West African strain, the milder of the two monkeypox strains.

Monkeypox has symptoms similar to smallpox but is far less severe, with most people recovering within weeks.

“Right now we are hoping to maximize vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it,” said McQuiston.

“Those are people who’ve had contacts with a known monkeypox patient, health care workers, very close personal contacts, and those in particular who might be at high risk for severe disease.”

– Greater risk to immunocompromised –

In terms of supply, the United States has around one thousand doses of JYNNEOS, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox “and you can expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks as the company provides more doses to us,” said McQuiston.

It also has around 100 million doses of an older generation vaccine, ACAM2000.

Both use live viruses but only JYNNEOS is non-replicating, making it the safer option, said McQuiston.

People who are immunocompromised or have particular skin conditions, including eczema, are at greater risk, added John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist.

Transmission of monkeypox occurs through close, sustained skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active rash, or through respiratory droplets in someone who has lesions in their mouth and is around another person for an extended period of time.

The virus causes a rash, with skin lesions focused on certain areas of the body, or spread more widely. In some cases, during early stages, a rash can start on the genital or perianal areas.

While scientists are concerned that the growing number of cases worldwide may potentially indicate a new type of transmission, so far there is no hard evidence to back that theory, said McQuiston.

Instead, the uptick in cases might be linked to specific spreader events, such as recent raves in Europe that might explain the higher prevalence among gay and bisexual men.

But, warned Brooks, “by no means is the current risk of exposure to monkeypox exclusive to the gay and bisexual community.”

The CDC is also developing treatment guidance to allow the deployment of antivirals tecovirimat and brincidofovir, both of which are licensed for smallpox.

Pfizer Eyes COVID-19 Vaccine For All Variants Before 2023

In this file photo, a healthcare worker prepares to administer a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a drive-thru site in Tropical Park on December 16, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

 

A Covid-19 vaccine effective against multiple variants is possible before the end of 2022, the head of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said Wednesday.

Chairman Albert Bourla said the firm was also working on producing a vaccine that could provide good protection for a whole year, meaning people would come back annually for boosters, as with influenza shots.

“I hope, clearly by autumn… that we could have a vaccine” that worked against not only the dominant Omicron but all known variants, he said.

“It is a possibility that we have it by then. It is not a certainty,” he told a media briefing organised by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) big pharma lobby group.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is one of the most effective against Covid-19.

Though, like other jabs, it has seen waning effectiveness against the now-dominant Omicron variant of the virus, it still offers strong protection against serious disease, hospitalisation and death.

IFPMA director general Thomas Cueni said the world had to learn to live with the virus that causes Covid-19 disease, saying: “We are beyond the time when you can eradicate SARS-CoV-2.”

Bourla said there was a risk of vaccine fatigue, predicting that few people who have so far declined the chance to be vaccinated would change their minds, and suggesting that fewer people would come back for fourth doses than came forward for a third, booster dose.

“What the world really needs is a vaccine that will last a year. I think this is what will become the optimal public health solution,” he said.

“It’s way more easy to be administered and have the population be compliant with that.

“It is very challenging, technically, to do it with this virus — but we are working on it.”

– IP waiver plan blasted –

The World Health Organization is aware of 153 Covid-19 vaccines that have been in clinical development — tested on humans — and 196 in pre-clinical development.

But so far, the UN health agency has only authorised eight vaccines and versions thereof: those made by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Moderna, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Bharat Biotech and Novavax.

The IFPMA briefing condemned suggestions that intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines should be temporarily lifted during the pandemic, in a bid to increase production.

“I’m stunned that the proposed IP waiver is still debated while supplies are far outstripping demand,” said Cueni.

With more than a billion vaccine doses being produced every month, Eli Lilly chairman David Ricks called it “a solution looking for a problem”, while Bourla branded the idea “insane”.

In a later WHO press conference, the UN health agency’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the vaccine supply situation had dramatically improved in recent months.

The problem, she said, was more one of logistics and getting doses into arms in countries, especially in Africa, where only 13 percent have been fully jabbed.

“We are able to now supply as many doses as countries want, on demand, to them. The issue now really is on delivery,” she said.

AFP

Studies Show That Meningitis Vaccine Protects Against Gonorrhoea

In this file photo, a healthcare worker prepares to administer a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a drive-thru site in Tropical Park on December 16, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

 

An existing meningitis vaccine offers protection against gonorrhoea, three studies said on Thursday, pointing towards a new way to fight the spread of the sexually transmitted disease.

Sometimes called “the clap”, gonorrhoea infected around 82 million people last year, according to the World Health Organization.

The number of cases has been rising as resistance grows to the drugs used to treat the disease, leading to fears it could become increasingly untreatable.

No vaccine has been developed for gonorrhoea, which mainly affects people under 30 — particularly men — and can only be avoided by using a condom or abstaining from sex.

However three new studies in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal show how effective a vaccine against fellow bacterial infection meningitis B could be against gonorrhoea.

Australian researchers analysed the data of more than 53,000 adolescents and young adults who received the two-dose 4CMenB meningococcal B vaccine in the state of South Australia.

They found that while it was highly effective against meningitis and sepsis, it was also 33-percent effective against gonorrhoea.

Helen Marshall of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, who led the study, said the findings were “vital to inform global meningitis vaccination programmes and policy decisions”.

Another study carried out in the United States found that two vaccine doses provided 40-percent protection against gonorrhoea, while one dose offered 26 percent.

The study, led by Winston Abara of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined the health records of 110,000 16- to 23-year-olds in New York City and Philadelphia from 2016 to 2018, comparing gonorrhoea and chlamydia cases with meningococcal vaccination rates.

Both sets of authors acknowledged limitations in their observational studies, calling for clinical trials to confirm the results.

Such trials could “also offer important insights towards the development of a vaccine specifically for gonorrhoea”, Abara said.

A third study in Britain used modelling to look at the health and economic impact of using the vaccine against gonorrhoea.

The researchers estimated that a vaccination campaign targeting men who have sex with men in England would prevent 110,000 cases and save eight million pounds ($10.4 million, 9.6 million euros) over a decade.

Gonorrhoea spreads easily because many carriers are unaware of their infection and unwittingly pass it on to new sexual partners.

Left untreated, it can cause infertility in both genders and increases susceptibility to contracting HIV.

COVID-19: Nigeria’s Vaccinated Population Exceeds 32 Million

 

No fewer than 32 million people across Nigeria have taken the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, as well as Johnson and Johnson brands of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday – April 3.

The figure comprises those who have taken the first and second doses, as well as the booster shots of these vaccines.

The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) disclosed this on Monday while giving an update on the vaccination exercise in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

 

It stated that across the country, 19,357,049 of total eligible persons targeted for vaccination have been partially vaccinated while 12,831,601 have fully taken the jabs.

This means that 32,188,650 of the total eligible persons targeted for vaccination have taken at least a jab of the vaccines.

Rating how well the exercise has done in the states, the agency said Nasarawa performed best having administered vaccines to more than half of the targeted population.

 

While 78 per cent of the targeted population in the state has taken the first jab, 50 per cent has been fully vaccinated as of March 11 – Friday.

Meanwhile, the NPHCDA has advised those who have taken their first vaccine dose to proceed to their respective vaccination sites for the second jab.

It, however, advised them to be cautious of the interval between the two doses, as well as booster shots take.

“All vaccination sites are open to eligible persons – 18 years and above for first, second, and booster doses,” it said in a Facebook post. “Kindly avail yourselves of this opportunity in the ongoing mass vaccination exercise to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Complete your COVID-19 vaccine doses for full protection. If you have received your first dose of Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Pfizer vaccine, kindly check the due date and go get your second dose for full protection.”

US Authorizes Fourth COVID-19 Shot For Over 50s

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The United States Tuesday authorized a fourth dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for people 50 and older, as authorities warn of a possible new wave driven by the BA.2 variant.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement it had based its decision on emerging evidence that an additional booster, given four months after the last, improved protection against severe Covid and wasn’t associated with new safety concerns.

Additionally, people with immune compromising conditions who have already received four shots, with their latest at least four months ago, are now eligible for a fifth dose.

That includes people living with certain organ transplants.

The Pfizer vaccine will be available to immune compromised people aged 12 and over, while the Moderna vaccine will be available to those 18 and up.

“Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from Covid-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals,” senior FDA scientist Peter Marks said, explaining the decision.

The FDA said data from Israel, which had studied the effects of a fourth dose given four months after the third on 700,000 people, found the extra shot was safe.

It also cited data from a study of 154 health workers whose antibody levels, including against the Delta and Omicron variants, were restored to high levels two weeks after their fourth doses.

A study published by Israeli researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine this month indicated that three doses of current generation mRNA vaccines have hit a ceiling in terms of the immune response generated.

In other words, while three doses brings immunity levels to new heights, the fourth dose restores antibody levels to where they previously were shortly after the third.

Experts have said the benefits to younger, healthy people aren’t yet clear, and say new vaccines will likely need to be developed as the virus continues to mutate.

AFP

Austria Suspends Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccine Law

An Austrian police van is pictured in the Mariahilfer street in Vienna, Austria on march 15, 2020. (Photo by HERBERT P. OCZERET / APA / AFP)

 

Austria said Wednesday it is suspending mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all adults saying the pandemic no longer poses the same danger, just weeks after the law took effect in an EU first.

The Alpine nation of nine million people was among few countries in the world to make jabs against the coronavirus compulsory for all adults.

The law took effect in February and called for fines up to 3,600 euros ($3,940) from mid-March for those who do not comply.

But minister Karoline Edtstadler said the law’s “encroachment of fundamental rights” could no longer be justified by the danger posed by the pandemic.

“After consultations with the health minister, we have decided that we will of course follow what the (expert) commission has said,” Edtstadler told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

“We see no need to actually implement this compulsory vaccination due to the (Omicron) variant that we are predominantly experiencing here.”

The highly-contagious variant is widely believed to be less severe than previous strains of the virus, and so far Austrian hospitals have been able to cope with a surge in cases.

This has led to the government to drop most coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks.

The government has stressed it needs to act flexibly in line with the epidemiological situation.

“Just like the virus keeps on changing, we need to be flexible and adaptable,” Edtstadler said.

The decision to suspend the law will be reviewed in three months, said Johannes Rauch, who took over as health minister this week as the third since the start of the pandemic.

– Mass protests –

Tens of thousands have demonstrated in regular weekend rallies across the country since the government said last November that it would seek to force people to get jabbed in an effort to boost the staggering vaccination rate.

But the rate of those considered fully protected against the virus has hardly changed in recent week, hovering around 70 percent of the population.

That group includes people who are vaccinated, those who have recovered, or a combination of both.

Calls to review the law — including from within the ruling conservative People’s Party — have also become increasingly loud as Austria has dropped many restrictions.

As of Tuesday, Austria has recorded almost three million coronavirus cases and more than 15,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

The law was adopted by parliament on January 20 with all but the far-right party supporting it and came into effect on February 5.

It applied to all residents above 18 years old with the exception of pregnant women, those who have contracted the virus within the past 180 days and those with medical exemptions.

Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Indonesia are among the few other countries in the world that also have a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law for all.

Two Years Into The Pandemic, Is The End In Sight?

Staff volunteers queue to receive a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, on December 27, 2021, as the Israeli hospital conducted a trial of the vaccine’s fourth jab on staff volunteers.
JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

Two years after the official start of the pandemic, some countries are now trying to “live with Covid”, however scientists warn that potential new variants and unequal vaccination rates threaten any long-awaited return to normality.

When US global health researcher Christopher Murray wrote “Covid-19 will continue but the end of the pandemic is near”, in The Lancet medical journal in late January, he summed up the hopes of many national health authorities around the world.

In the weeks leading up to the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic in March 2020, countries such as Britain and Denmark lifted all legal Covid restrictions. Many US states also relaxed mask and other rules.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the change marked the beginning of learning “to live with Covid”, as the global death toll falls after the more transmissible though less severe Omicron variant swept the world.

The WHO has said that the “acute phase” of the pandemic could end by the middle of this year — if around 70 percent of the world is vaccinated.

– From pandemic to endemic? –

Spain has been among the nations calling for approaching Covid as having transitioned to an “endemic” phase, meaning it has milder seasonal outbreaks that humanity can live with, such as the flu.

However some scientists worry governments could use the somewhat vague term to justify lifting life-saving measures.

University of Oxford evolutionary virologist Aris Katzourakis said “the word ‘endemic’ has become one of the most misused of the pandemic.”

“A disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly,” he wrote in the journal Nature last week, pointing out that malaria killed more than 600,000 people in 2020, while 1.5 million died of tuberculosis.

There are also other options than just pandemic or endemic. The British government’s scientific advisory body SAGE has laid out four potential scenarios for the years to come.

Under the “reasonable best-case” scenario, there will be smaller regional or seasonal outbreaks, as the higher Covid numbers lead to fewer flu cases.

Under the worst-case scenario, new unpredictable variants build into repeated damaging virus waves, requiring the return of harsh restrictions.

The different outcomes hinge on two key uncertainties: the possible emergence of new variants, and the ability of vaccines to protect against the disease in the long term.

– The new variant threat –

When it comes to vaccines, Omicron has served as both a warning and a test.

Many epidemiologists say that simply letting Covid spread unchecked gives it a greater chance of mutating into new strains.

And there is no guarantee that such new variants will be less deadly.

“There is a widespread, rosy misconception that viruses evolve over time to become more benign,” Katzourakis said.

“This is not the case: there is no predestined evolutionary outcome for a virus to become more benign,” he said, pointing out that the Delta variant was deadlier than the first strain that emerged in Wuhan, China.

Omicron also partly evades protection from the currently available vaccines.

But they are very effective in preventing severe disease and death — particularly third booster shots which have been rolled out across the world.

– Vaccines to the rescue? –

Countries such as Israel and Sweden have started administering fourth doses, but experts fear that an endless number of booster shots is a short-sighted strategy. An Israeli trial in January also found that a fourth dose was less effective against Omicron.

Pharma giants have raced to develop a vaccine that specifically targets Omicron, but none seem close to becoming available.

Several recent preliminary results of tests carried out on animals and not peer reviewed have suggested the targeted vaccines are no more effective against Omicron than their predecessors.

But there could be another way: broadening rather than narrowing the scope of the vaccine.

Three researchers including Anthony Fauci — US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser — have called for a “universal coronavirus vaccine” that would protect not just against Covid but also against future coronaviruses that could spread from animals and trigger another pandemic.

“We must now prioritise development of broadly protective vaccines,” the researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine over the weekend.

However such a vaccine faces major hurdles and the first efforts have only just begun trials on humans.

In the meantime, the WHO emphasises that the best way to end the acute phase of the pandemic is for rich countries to share their doses rather than boost their populations again.

Only 13 percent of Africans had been fully vaccinated as of late last month, according to the WHO — far below the 70 percent target needed by mid-year.

AFP

Nasarawa Tops As Nearly 25 Million People Take COVID-19 Vaccine In Nigeria

An infographic illustrating the top 10 performing states as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccination as rated by the NPHCDA on February 18, 2022. Channels TV/ Benjamin Kehinde.

 

Nearly 25 million people have taken the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, as well as Johnson and Johnson brands of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday – February 18.

This includes those who have taken just the first, second, as well as booster shots of these vaccines.

The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) disclosed this in its latest update on the vaccination exercise in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

It explained that more than 60 per cent of the millions of doses administered so far was carried out through the mass vaccination campaign of November 2021 till date.

READ ALSO: Sweden Recommends Fourth Jab For Over-80s

In taking the jabs, the NPHCDA warned Nigerians against taking different brands of vaccines for a second dose, except in the case of a booster shot where Pfizer was recommended for those who had been administered Oxford/AstraZeneca.

“The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) does not recommend mix and match of different COVID-19 vaccine brands,” it said. “The Agency ensures a steady supply of the different brands of vaccines to the states.

“Please ensure you take the same brand of the vaccine for your first and second doses. However, for the booster dose, if you took Oxford/AstraZeneca brand for first and second doses, you are required to take Pfizer for your booster.”

 

Nasarawa Leads

Rating how well the exercise has done in the states, the agency said Nasarawa performed best having administered vaccines to over 70 per cent of the targeted population.

While 73 per cent of the targeted population in the state has taken the first jab, 33 per cent has received the second dose.

 

Data from the NPHCDA revealed that Nasarawa was followed by Jigawa – (67 per cent) and (17 per cent), as well as Ogun – (26 per cent) (13 per cent), in terms of first and second jabs respectively.

The FCT (26 per cent) and (15 per cent), as well as Kwara (24 per cent) and (11 per cent), completed the list of the top five performing states.

The over five states that made the top 10 performing states are Osun (22 per cent) and (nine per cent, Kano (21 per cent) and (eight per cent), Oyo (20 per cent) and (nine per cent), Lagos (19 per cent) and (12 per cent), as well as Zamfara (18 per cent) and (six per cent).

COVID-19 Vaccine Maker AstraZeneca Says 2021 Profit Dives

In this file photo taken on February 12, 2021 a vial containing the Covid-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table in the pharmacy of the vaccination center at the Robert Bosch hospital in Stuttgart, southern Germany. THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

British Covid vaccine maker AstraZeneca said Thursday that net profit collapsed last year, hit by the vast takeover of US biotech firm Alexion and other charges, despite surging revenues.

Profit after tax slumped to just $112 million (98 million euros) compared with $3.2 billion in 2020, the pharmaceutical company said in a statement.

However, revenues including Covid-19 vaccine sales rebounded 41 percent to $37.4 billion.

The Covid jab, Vaxzevria, achieved full-year sales of almost $4 billion.

However, the group warned Thursday of declining coronavirus product sales this year as the deadly pandemic recedes.

– Strong growth –

“AstraZeneca continued on its strong growth trajectory in 2021,” said chief executive Pascal Soriot, noting strong progress on new medicines alongside the purchase and integration of Alexion.

“We also delivered on our promise of broad and equitable access to our Covid-19 vaccine with 2.5 billion doses released for supply around the world, and we made good progress on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The UK group faced vast costs last year following its $39-billion takeover of US biotech company Alexion, while it also took large impairment and restructuring charges.

AstraZeneca, which developed its Covid jab with Oxford University, initially offered the vaccine at cost during the pandemic in contrast to rivals including Pfizer, but indicated in November that it would start selling it at a profit.

Soriot added that the group was increasing its shareholder dividend after what he described as a “landmark year”.

The annual dividend was upped to $2.90 per share.

AstraZeneca added that it anticipates that Covid product sales will sink by “a low-to-mid twenties percentage” this year.

That is expected to be partially offset by sales of Evusheld, its preventative moniclonal antibody treatment for immunocompromised people.

Yet AstraZeneca warned that the gross profit margin from its Covid-19 medicines was expected to be “lower than the company average”.

The group also revealed Thursday that it had swung into a pre-tax annual loss of $265 million, after a $3.9-billion profit last time around.

In reaction to the results, AstraZeneca’s share price rallied 3.5 percent to 8,655 pence in early morning trade on London’s rising stock market.

– Jab ‘raised profile’ –

“The Covid vaccine has raised Astra’s global profile significantly, with its previous not-for-profit status now being removed,” said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Keith Bowman.

“For now, and with further innovation and new drug successes ongoing, analyst consensus opinion continues to point to a strong buy.”

Rival drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline had reported Wednesday that 2021 profits had slumped by a quarter, after the prior year was boosted by asset sales.

GSK has thus far failed to produce a successful Covid vaccine unlike AstraZeneca, but is developing a jab alongside French peer Sanofi.

AFP

WHO, Commonwealth Make Jabs Plea For Small States

File photo: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event in a predominately Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, August 11, 2021. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

The World Health Organization and the Commonwealth of Nations issued a joint plea Monday for vulnerable small states to get better access to Covid jabs to help revive their economies.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Commonwealth head Patricia Scotland met at the UN health agency’s headquarters in Geneva to sign an agreement focused on ending the pandemic and combating vaccine inequity.

“The impact of the pandemic will be felt for decades, especially among the most vulnerable,” Tedros said.

“The longer the pandemic drags on, the worse those impacts will be.”

The WHO wants 70 percent of the population in each country fully vaccinated by the end of June.

Tedros said that so far, 42 percent of Commonwealth citizens had been fully vaccinated — but only 23 percent across its African member states.

READ ALSO: Morocco Reopens Airspace After 2-Month COVID-19 Shutdown

Scotland noted that 32 of the world’s 42 small states are in the Commonwealth.

“At current global vaccination rates, we could vaccinate the entire population of these states within two or three days,” she said.

Born out of the British empire, the Commonwealth brings together around a quarter of the world’s countries and a third of the world’s population.

“Equitable access to vaccines, especially for small and vulnerable countries, is the most pressing political, economic, social and moral priority,” Scotland said.

Besides the pandemic, the WHO-Commonwealth memorandum of understanding focused on promoting universal health coverage and primary health care, strengthening health security and exchanging innovation and knowledge.

The Commonwealth includes developed nations such as Britain, Canada and Australia, along with emerging economies like India, Nigeria and Malaysia and small island states such as Tuvalu and Barbados.

World’s First Malaria Vaccine Making Inroads In Western Kenya

Laboratory Scientists Commit To Eradication Of Malaria In Nigeria
A file photo used to illustrate the story.

Lucy Akinyi’s three children were infected with malaria so often she would be at their local health clinic in western Kenya every other week getting them treated.

When offered the chance to protect her children with the world’s first vaccine against the deadly parasitic disease, Akinyi jumped at the chance.

More than 100,000 children in malaria-endemic western Kenya have received the new vaccine against the disease, which kills 260,000 children under five every year in sub-Saharan Africa.

A pilot programme has been rolling out the groundbreaking drug — which was 30 years in the making — in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi since 2019.

READ ALSOPfizer To Seek Green Light To Vaccinate Kids Five And Under

It was approved for broad use for children in sub-Saharan Africa and other at-risk regions by the World Health Organization (WHO) in October last year.

For Akinyi and her extended family, the vaccine has worked wonders.

She would always place mosquito nets over her children while they slept, but despite her best efforts, they would still get bitten outside while playing.

“We used to have a lot of malaria in our home. We could be at the hospital three times in a month,” Akinyi said.

But none of her children have tested positive for malaria since being vaccinated, she said, bringing her great comfort living in a region where the disease is a major killer.

“We are very happy because none of our children are sick,” Akinyi said.

Her sister-in-law, Millicent Akoth Oyoya, decided to get her own children jabbed after seeing the benefit it brought her nieces and nephews.

“When she (Akinyi) had her youngest vaccinated, that baby never got malaria,” Oyoya said at a clinic as she waited to get her nine-month-old boy vaccinated in the Lake Victoria region.

“So I decided to bring mine too so that he would be malaria-free.”

Game Changer 

Health clinics in western Kenya — where paediatric wards full of children sickened by malaria are not uncommon — are starting to see results.

Admissions for malaria are falling, as is the severity of symptoms.

“Since we started administering the malaria vaccine in September 2019, we have seen a reduction of the cases of malaria,” said Elsa Swerua, head nurse for malaria at Akala Health Center in Siaya County.

“Even the children who get malaria, it is not severe, and the number of deaths out of malaria has also gone down.”

Less malaria — the same person can suffer many episodes of the disease every year — means fewer trips to the hospital, a boon for families who struggle to pay for treatment again and again.

“Before the vaccine… we would spend a lot of money on treatment and buying and going to the hospital. The cost was high,” Akinyi said.

Now, there is more money to go around for food and other essentials, she said.

Dr Simon Kariuki, chief research officer at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, and a leading expert on malaria said the vaccine was a game-changer.

“We showed that this vaccine is safe, and can be given to young African children who bare the higher burden of malaria,” he said.

The pilot trial had shown the vaccine could “reduce malaria incidents in young children in these areas by almost 40 percent”, he said.

The WHO has recommended that the vaccine be administered in a four-dose regimen for children from five months of age in areas with moderate to high transmission of malaria.

AFP

US Army To Dismiss Soldiers Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

The US Army announced Wednesday it will begin discharging soldiers who refuse to comply with a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination rule.

“Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said in a statement.

“We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”

READ ALSOPfizer To Seek Green Light To Vaccinate Kids Five And Under

More than 3,000 soldiers could be discharged, according to the statement. The army had 482,000 active-duty personnel at the end of 2021.

As of January 26, six high-ranking officers — including two battalion commanders — had been removed from their posts for refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The army has issued written “reprimands” to 3,073 soldiers who have also refused to get vaccinated.

The US Navy announced in mid-October that personnel who declined vaccination against Covid-19 would be expelled from the force.

It has been particularly sensitive to the pandemic because of the risk that a single Covid case could infect an entire ship or submarine at sea, forcing it out of action.

In a press release Wednesday, the navy said that about 8,000 active duty and reserve service members remained unvaccinated, and that to date, 118 people had been dismissed for refusing the vaccine.

The Marine Corps previously said it had discharged more than 300.

Around 97 percent of the approximately 1.4 million active-duty US military personnel have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Pentagon.

AFP