US Declares Monkeypox A Public Health Emergency

Monkeypox virus was first identified by Preben von Magnus in 1958 as a pathogen of crab-eating macaque monkeys
Monkeypox virus was first identified by Preben von Magnus in 1958 as a pathogen of crab-eating macaque monkeys

 

US President Joe Biden’s government on Thursday declared monkeypox a public health emergency, a move that should free up new funds, assist in data gathering and allow the deployment of additional personnel in the fight against the disease.

The move came as nationwide cases topped 6,600, around a quarter of them from New York state, and experts warned swift action was needed if the outbreak is to be contained in its early stages.

“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus,” Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra said in a call.

Observers believe the real number of cases could be much higher than official figures suggest, since symptoms in the current global outbreak, which began in May, have included subtle signs, such as single lesions, in addition to the more familiar widespread rashes.

This can lead to cases being missed or misdiagnosed as the presentation is similar to common sexually transmitted infections.

READ ALSO: US Says Russia Will Fake Scene Around Mass POW Deaths To Blame Ukraine

The US has so far delivered some 600,000 JYNNEOS vaccines — originally developed against monkeypox’s related virus, smallpox — but this number is still far short of the approximately 1.6 million people considered at highest risk and who need the vaccine most.

Supply chain constraints mean the country should receive its next shipment of 150,000 JYNNEOS vaccines — which was developed with US federal funding but is made by a small Danish company called Bavarian Nordic — only by September, said Dawn O’Connell, a senior HHS official.

 Sexual Activity Main Driver 

Some 99 percent of US cases have so far been among men who have sex with men, HHS said last week, and this is the population authorities are targeting in the national vaccination strategy.

In contrast to previous outbreaks in Africa, the virus is now predominantly spread through sexual activity — but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says other routes are also possible, including sharing bedding, clothing, and prolonged face-to-face contact.

Authorities are carrying out specific outreach efforts to the MSM community, including advising them on new types of symptoms and suggesting reducing their number of sexual partners until vaccinated.

There are a small but rising number of women and children who have also been affected as a result of sexual or household contact.

Fortunately, there have been no reported US deaths, with all patients so far recovering. However, some have required hospitalization to treat extreme levels of pain.

Some 14,000 doses of an antiviral drug known as tecovirimat, or TPOXX by its trade name, have been delivered to treat the disease — but the drug was developed against smallpox and its efficacy against monkeypox isn’t yet fully understood.

The focus on MSMs has led to concerns of stigmatization.

But writing in Medscape, University of California, San Francisco professor Monica Gandhi said the focus on the most affected population was helpful.

“Just like with HIV and COVID, it is important to define populations most at risk so we can prioritize targeted messaging and resources toward those groups,” she said.

Five Vaccines from One Dose 

The US declaration comes after the World Health Organization also designated the outbreak an emergency last month — something it reserves for diseases of highest concern.

Also Thursday, US Food and Drug Administration commissioner Robert Califf said his agency was considering changing the way the vaccine is injected, adopting an approach that would allow five times as many people to be vaccinated based on the same supply.

The vaccine is currently administered underneath the skin, but the new technique would involve administering it within the skin, at a more shallow angle.

This “means basically sticking the needle within the skin and creating a little pocket there into which the vaccine goes, so this is really nothing highly unusual,” said Califf.

The US will first need to declare another type of emergency so the new vaccine administration method can be greenlighted, he added. ia

AFP

DR Congo Confirms New Ebola Case

This file photo taken on August 15, 2014 shows an MSF medical workers checking their protective clothing in a mirror at an MSF facility in Kailahun, epicentre of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak.
CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

A new case of the Ebola virus has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country’s health officials said. 

The new case was confirmed in Mbandaka, a city in the north-western Equateur Province. This is the third outbreak in the province since 2018.

The 31-year-old patient began showing symptoms of the disease on April 5 after staying more than a week at home, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa, explained.

But on 21 April, the patient was admitted to an Ebola treatment centre for intensive care. He died later that day, prompting health workers to immediately begin the submission of samples to test for the Ebola virus disease.

“Time is not on our side,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

“The disease has had a two-week head start and we are now playing catch-up. The positive news is that health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have more experience than anyone else in the world at controlling Ebola outbreaks quickly.”

The country is experiencing its fourteenth Ebola outbreak since 1976. The present one is the sixth since 2018. Previous outbreaks in Equateur Province were in 2020 and 2018, with 130 and 54 reported cases respectively.

Efforts to curb the spread of the disease including vaccination are being ramped up. Vaccines will be sent to Mbandaka and administered via the ‘ring vaccination strategy.

“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease,” said Dr Moeti.

“All those who were vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated.”

Ebola is a viral haemorrhagic fever that was first identified in central Africa in 1976. The disease was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then known as Zaire.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding, and diarrhoea.

FG Receives 3.2m J&J COVID-19 Vaccines From Italy

Johnson & Johnson vaccine vials against the COVID-19 coronavirus are seen at the Klerksdorp Hospital as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign on February 18, 2021. Phill Magakoe / AFP
Johnson & Johnson vaccine vials against the COVID-19 coronavirus are seen at the Klerksdorp Hospital as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign on February 18, 2021.
Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

The Nigerian government has received 3.2 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, from the Italian government in Abuja.

Speaking during a press conference on Monday in Abuja, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria has fully vaccinated a little above 13.5 million people with the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, representing 12.2 percent of the eligible population in the country.

He said over 23 million people who have received their first doses are yet to take their second jab, a situation the Nigerian government hopes to improve with the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is a single shot.

READ ALSO: Two-Thirds Of Africans May Have Had COVID-19 – WHO Study

“As of today, we have fully vaccinated 13.5 million persons; this represents approximately 12.2 percent of our total eligible population. Meanwhile, 23 million have taken the first dose of the vaccine,” he stated.

The NPHCDA boss further thanked the Italian government for the donation, assuring that the Nigerian government would ensure that other Nigerians are vaccinated against the covid disease.

“This represents 18 percent of the total eligible population. You will recall that in January, the Federal Government formally rolled out the administration of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine across the country. I must say that this has rapidly improved our coverage.

“I want to appreciate the government of Italy for this donation which is in line with the global call for for equitable access to Covid vaccines. Let me assure you that these vaccines, like all other vaccines, will be judiciously utilised.”

US Ships 840,000 COVID-19 Vaccines To Uganda

Bottles of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Janssen Covid-19 vaccine await transfer into syringes for administering at a vaccine rollout targetting immingrants and the undocumented in Los Angeles, California on March 25, 2021. The US is calling for a pause on April 13, 2021 on administering the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine due to blood clotting concerns.
Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

The United States is shipping 840,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine to Uganda Tuesday through an international initiative for humanitarian crises, a White House official said.

This will be the first shipment of the J&J jab under the “humanitarian buffer,” a stock of vaccines managed by Covax, the international scheme aimed at ensuring vaccine access for poorer countries.

The US will also stockpile another 300,000 doses of J&J for distribution to humanitarian workers and UN peacekeeping missions worldwide, the official said.

US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said his country would be the world’s “arsenal of vaccines.”

His administration has continuously stated that US vaccine donations are unconditional and not intended to further diplomatic or strategic objectives.

The international community — with the support of Gavi, the public-private partnership that co-leads Covax — decided in March 2021 to establish a “buffer” stock of vaccines, which would be administered by international agencies or NGOs.

This buffer should benefit populations facing humanitarian crises, Gavi explained on its website, as well as vulnerable groups such as refugees, asylum seekers, people who are stateless, internally displaced people, migrants, minorities and people living in conflict-affected areas.

UN Expert Urges Vaccines To Help North Korea End COVID-19 Isolation

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The world should provide millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines to North Korea, where “draconian” anti-pandemic measures are worsening an already-severe food crisis, a UN human rights expert said Wednesday.

The impoverished nation has been behind a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade since early 2020 to protect itself from the pandemic, with the economy suffering and trade all but stopped.

The country’s “draconian” anti-Covid measures, including border closures and further limits on domestic freedom of movement, have worsened the food crisis, Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN special rapporteur on human rights, said.

Crucial domestic market activity has been cut off, and international aid workers have been forced to depart, with humanitarian operations all but halted, he said, adding that vulnerable populations were at risk of starvation.

The international community should “agree on a strategy to provide the DPRK with 60 million doses of vaccination to cover at least two shots for the entire population,” Quintana said at a press briefing in Seoul Wednesday.

Vaccinations are “the key to opening the DPRK’s border… and bringing it out of isolation,” he added, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name.

READ ALSO: Pope Warns Of ‘Increasingly Alarming Scenarios’ In Ukraine

North Korea has yet to confirm a single case of the novel coronavirus.

According to the World Health Organization, North Korea had by the end of 2020 conducted 13,259 Covid-19 tests, which all came back negative.

It had been due to receive more than 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax programme last year, but rejected them due to concerns over side effects, Yonhap reported at the time.

It has also rejected offers of vaccines from allies Russia and China, local reports say.

In January, North Korea conducted a record seven weapons tests, including firing the most powerful missile since 2017, as it ignored US offers of talks.

Pyongyang is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Quintana again called for such restrictions to be eased to protect the country’s most vulnerable in the face of a severe food shortage.

AFP

Djokovic: Australia ‘Humiliated Themselves’ With Court Ruling, Says Serbian President

File photo: Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14, 2022. MARTIN KEEP / AFP

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic lashed out at Australian authorities Sunday morning, hours after a federal court paved the way for the deportation of Novak Djokovic on the eve of the Australian Open over his vaccine status. 

“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of ten days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high,” Vucic told a state media outlet.

Vucic has remained steadfast in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the unvaccinated tennis star a “political witch hunt”.

“I spoke earlier to Novak Djokovic after the decision and I encouraged him. We look forward to seeing him return to his country, where he is always welcome,” the president added.

READ ALSO[Djokovic] Australian Open More Important Than Any Player, Says Nadal

Earlier in Australia, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the federal court’s ruling that upheld the government’s right to rip up his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment and dashed his dream of a record 21st Grand Slam

In Serbia, the ruling stoked outrage among Djokovic’s fans.

“It’s a farce … All this has nothing to do with the sport,” Nebojsa Viskovic, a journalist covering notably tennis, told AFP.

“All the criticism about whether he was vaccinated or not doesn’t hold water.”

Many other Serbs echoed the view.

“The decision is not a surprise but is still shameful,” said Jadranka Misic, a 29-year-old sociologist from Belgrade.

For tennis fan Milovan Jankovic, Australia and the tournament itself had secured little more than a Pyrrhic victory.

“It’s going to be ridiculous to hold the tournament without the defending champion and nine-time winner.

“If I were Djokovic I would never set foot in Australia again,” the 57-year-old salesman added.

An “extremely disappointed” Djokovic said he would comply with the unanimous ruling.

AFP

Nigeria Confirms Highest-Ever Daily COVID-19 Cases

In this file photo, a health worker holds a vaccine tube and a syringe as Nigeria commenced the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination on August 16, 2021. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

Nigeria on Wednesday reported 4,035 COVID-19 cases, the highest-ever daily infection tally since the disease was detected in the country nearly two years ago.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed this in its daily update about the pandemic in the country.

A breakdown of the new infections showed that they were confirmed in 15 states in the country with Lagos State having 3,393 more cases.

The NCDC data also indicated that new cases were reported as followed: Rivers – 260;  Edo – 62; Akwa Ibom – 42; Kaduna – 39;  Ekiti – 38; Oyo – 38; Delta – 31; and Kano – 31.

Ogun – 30; Abia – 26;  Bauchi – 15; Ondo – 14; Enugu – 9 and Kwara – 7 are the other states with additional COVID-19 infections.

With the new figures, Nigeria’s COVID-19 infections now stand at 231,413 out of which 211,853 have been successfully treated and discharged.

The flipside, however, indicates that 2,991 people have died from COVID-19 complications.


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Vaccines Destroyed

 

vaccines-destroyed
NAFDAC says the destruction of the vaccines followed several testing processes.

 

Wednesday’s update from the NCDC further confirms warnings by the agency and Nigerian authorities over the new Omicron variant.

On Tuesday, the country reported its highest daily infections in 11 months – 2,123, just a few days after authorities confirmed that Nigeria is in the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Pushed by the quest to curb the increasing number of infections, the NCDC had called for caution during the festive period.

“Critically, Nigerians are urged to adhere to recommended measures by NCDC and other public health authorities, as they celebrate Christmas and New Year,” it said in a statement earlier in the week.

While the infection rate continues to spike, calls for mass vaccination have also gathered steam.

Several states across the country have flagged off mass vaccination campaigns, Oyo State being one of the latest to join the move.

But on Tuesday, Nigeria destroyed one million, sixty-six thousand, two hundred and fourteen (1,066,214) doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, raising concerns over the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

The vaccines, according to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), were part of the 2,594,100 doses received on the 11th and 29th October of 2021.

One million, five hundred and twenty-seven thousand, eight hundred and Eighty-six of the vaccines (1,527,886) were utilised, they added.

The batches of the vaccine destroyed got expired in November.  They were destroyed at the Gosa Dumping site, about 2Km from the Idu Railway Station in Abuja.

U.S. Businesses Face Jan 4 Deadline To Get Workers Vaccinated

File photo of health worker preparing to inoculate a person with a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
PHOTO: Narinder NANU / AFP

 

Strict rules intended to push tens of millions of American workers into receiving vaccines against Covid-19 will come into effect on January 4 of next year, President Joe Biden’s administration announced on Thursday.

The mandates targeting businesses with more than 100 employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors represent the most aggressive steps Washington has taken thus far against the virus and its Delta variant, which has hobbled the country’s economic recovery in recent months.

“The single consistent deadline across all three requirements is January 4, 2022,” when any employee covered by the requirement must either receive their final vaccination dose or submit to at least weekly Covid-19 testing, a senior administration official said.

READ ALSO: Peru Minister Resigns After Holding Party That Breached COVID-19 Rules

Biden announced the mandate in September amid growing concern over the country’s flagging vaccination rate, leaving federal agencies to finalize the rules that have already attracted criticism from the Republican opposition and some industry groups.

The regulations will affect more than two-thirds of the country’s workforce, the senior administration official said, and join mandates announced by major employers in the country as well as some states.

“The bottom line is vaccination requirements work,” the official said, predicting the rules would “lead (to) millions of Americans getting vaccinated, protecting workers, saving lives, strengthening our economy and helping to accelerate our path out of this pandemic.”

 

– ‘Turning point’ –

The world’s largest Covid-19 outbreak is among the stones that have weighed down Biden’s presidency in recent months.

His Democratic party suffered a humiliating defeat in Virginia’s governorship election this week, while lawmakers in Congress have yet to reach an agreement on two spending bills Biden has put at the center of his policies.

Economic growth soared and millions went back to work after Biden took office in January just as Covid-19 vaccines became widely available, but third-quarter growth slumped and September’s hiring was the weakest of the year as the Delta wave sent infections soaring and made businesses cautious.

The president on Tuesday hailed a Food and Drug Administration decision to allow people aged 5-11 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a “turning point” that will affect up to 28 million children.

Convincing reluctant adults to get a widely available vaccine is another matter. While some businesses including major air carriers have imposed their own vaccine requirements, the Republican House lawmakers compared the mandate to a “dictatorship.”

The governor of Texas went as far as to put a ban on Covid-19 vaccine mandates for any entities in the state, including private companies.

The Society for Human Resource Management released a poll last month saying 90 percent of employers surveyed would find it difficult to implement the mandate, and asked the government to seek public comment before imposing the rules.

Elumelu, Kidjo, Davido, Others Call On World Leaders To Donate Pledged COVID-19 Vaccines

Nigerian entrepreneur, Tony Elumelu; Beninese singer-songwriter, Angelique Kidjo; Nigerian Afrobeat musician, Femi Kuti; and pop star, David Adeleke a.k.a Davido, were among 48 UNICEF Africa ambassadors and supporters who recently signed a letter to world leaders to honour their promises to urgently deliver doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to Africa.

 

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, some prominent Africans have joined their voices to calls for more vaccines for the continent.

Nigerian entrepreneur, Tony Elumelu; Beninese singer and songwriter, Angelique Kidjo; and Nigerian pop star, David Adeleke a.k.a Davido, were among 48 UNICEF Africa ambassadors and supporters who recently signed a letter to leaders of more wealthy countries to honour their promises to urgently deliver excess doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“The letter’s signatories, including Angelique Kidjo, Arlo Parks, Davido, Tendai Mtawarira, Femi Kuti, Tony Elumelu, Ramla Ali, Winnie Byanyima and others, are calling on leaders to donate the pledged vaccines by December, along with the necessary resources to turn the vaccines into vaccinations,” a statement by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

According to the agency, wealthy countries with more supplies than they need had generously pledged to donate those doses to low and middle-income countries via COVAX but the promised doses are moving too slowly.

Read Also: [COVID-19] G20 Countries Have Received 15 Times More Vaccine Doses Than African Countries – UNICEF

“Of the 1.3 billion additional doses countries have pledged to donate, only 356 million doses have been provided to COVAX,” UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore said, adding that “African countries, in particular, have largely been left without access to COVID-19 vaccines”.

“Less than five per cent of the African population are fully vaccinated, leaving many countries at high-risk of further outbreaks.

“Vaccine inequity is not just holding the poorest countries back – it is holding the world back,” Fore added.

The agency is, however, optimistic that the plea from some of its ambassadors could go a long way.

“As leaders prepare to meet for the G20 Summit in Rome this weekend, 48 UNICEF Africa ambassadors and supporters from across the continent have united in an open letter. They are calling for leaders to honour their promises to urgently deliver doses, writing that ‘the stakes could not be higher,’ the statement read in part.

US To Donate Extra 500 Million COVID-19 Vaccines, Says Biden

US President Joe Biden convenes a virtual Covid-19 Summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, on September 22, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC. – Biden urged leaders at summit to make sure 70 percent of their populations are covered by next September. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden opened a Covid-19 summit of world leaders Wednesday with a promise to donate a “historic” extra 500 million vaccines to countries struggling to push back against the pandemic.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis,” Biden said. “America will become the arsenal for vaccines as we were the arsenal for democracy in World War II.”

The pledge from Biden at the summit, held virtually from the White House, brings the total US commitment of donated vaccines to 1.1 billion — more than the rest of the world combined.

“The US has already shipped 160 million of these doses to 100 countries,” the White House said in a statement. “For every one shot we’ve put in an American arm to date, we are now donating three shots globally.”

The new tranche of half a billion vaccines will be from Pfizer and aimed at poorer countries.

Biden was also due to challenge world leaders to vaccinate 70 percent of every country by September 2022, the White House said.

In his opening remarks, he stressed that the surge of vaccines must only be donated, with no “political” strings attached — a veiled dig at China in particular.

The United States and other wealthy countries have been criticized by the World Health Organization for their plans to roll out booster shots for elderly and high-risk populations, while much of the world faces a severe shortage in doses.

But a senior US administration official told reporters that Washington is “proving that you can take care of your own, while helping others as well.”

On Tuesday, in his first speech to the UN as president, Biden told delegates that the United States had put more than $15 billion towards the global Covid response and shipped more than 160 million doses to other countries.

– 70 percent target –

Despite the development of safe and highly effective vaccines in record-breaking time, huge disparities exist between countries with ample supply and others that have barely begun their immunization campaign.

Just 3.6 percent of Africa’s eligible population has been inoculated — compared with an average of more than 60 percent in Western Europe.

The summit — technically held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly — saw Biden and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosting a wide variety of health and foreign leaders.

They included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the heads of Britain, Canada, the European Union, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Washington will seek to rally the world around three goals, the administration official said.

These are: increasing vaccine supply; saving lives now by resolving the oxygen crisis and access to testing, medicine and therapeutics; and lastly improving future preparedness.

On vaccines, Biden will set an “ambitious target, which will require all countries to step up, so that every country, including low income and low middle income countries can achieve 70 percent vaccination before” next year’s UN General Assembly, the official said.

While the latest global coronavirus wave peaked in late August, the virus continues to spread rapidly, particularly in the United States, which is officially the worst-hit country.

Some 4.7 million have died since the outbreak began in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

AFP

Buhari Meets WTO DG, Okonjo-Iweala On Production Of Vaccine

President Buhari at a meeting with Dr Okonjo-Iweala and Mr Onyeama at a meeting in New York, the United States.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has met with the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ahead of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The discussions between the duo centred on getting manufacturers of vaccines to invest in production in Nigeria, and Africa at large and help economies recover faster.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who accompanied him to the United States alongside other appointees, spoke about the speech to be delivered by President Buhari while addressing world leaders on Friday.

“Mr President is going to be addressing the world,” he said. “So, what we will see from this is Nigeria’s vision, Mr president’s global vision on key issues of priority like development, climate change, security, women empowerment, good governance, anti-corruption, illicit financial flows, and restitution.”

While Nigeria hopes for a great outing as the general debates begin on Tuesday, President Buhari has been engaging top government officials in strategic meetings.

Meanwhile, Channels Television correspondent reported that a protest erupted in Manhattan, close to the United Nations Headquarters where the session is taking place.

President Buhari at a meeting with Dr Okonjo-Iweala in New York, the United States.

 

Two groups of Nigerians in diaspora bore their minds on the state of the nation, both having opposing views about the unity of the country.

Although protests such as this have been reported at conferences like this in the past, what seems to resonate for the two parties is tackling the nation’s challenges and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the coming years.

The theme for this year’s UNGA is, ‘Building Resilience Through Hope – To Recover from COVID-19, Rebuild Sustainably, Respond to the Needs of the Planet, Respect the Rights of People and Revitalise the United Nations’.

While in the U.S., the President and members of the delegation will partake in other events such as the high-level meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, themed ‘Reparations, Racial Justice, and Equality for People of African Descent’.

He is expected back in the country on September 26.

India To Resume COVID-19 Vaccine Export In October – Minister

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

 

India will resume exporting Covid-19 vaccines from October, five months after it stopped sending supplies abroad in the face of a deadly wave of infections, the health minister said Monday.

The South Asian giant, dubbed the “pharmacy of the world”, was a major supplier to the Covax programme aimed at ensuring poor countries can access doses.

Exports stopped in April, according to foreign ministry data, when a virus surge in India pushed the healthcare system to breaking point and there was a huge demand for jabs.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said more than 300 million vaccine doses would be produced in October and one billion in the last three months of the year.

“India will be resuming export of vaccines… in order to fulfill the commitment of India towards Covax,” Mandaviya said in a statement.

“The surplus supply of vaccines will be used to fulfill our commitment towards the world for the collective fight against Covid-19.”

Covax is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, with UNICEF using its vaccine logistics expertise to handle the delivery flights.

Under Covax, the 92 poorest countries can access jabs for free, with donors covering the cost.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) plant, producing AstraZeneca doses, was supposed to be the early backbone of Covax’s supply chain.

A Gavi spokesman welcomed the news from New Delhi.

“This could have an immense positive impact on both health security within India as well as globally,” he told AFP.

“Our priority right now is to engage with the government of India and the SII to understand the impact this will have on our supply schedule, as we race to protect as many vulnerable people as we can from Covid-19.”

Some 5.9 billion coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered around the world, according to an AFP count.

So far, Covax has shipped 286 million doses — far below where it wanted to be at this stage — to 141 participating economies.

In a tweet, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged world leaders to “guarantee vaccine equity and equitable access to other Covid-19 tools”.

Launched in January, India’s vaccination campaign was slow to take off because of shortages and hesitancy among the population.

But the pace has picked up in recent weeks, with authorities currently administering between five to eight million coronavirus shots every day.

The country hit a record 22 million coronavirus jabs in a day on Friday as part of a special vaccination drive for the birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

AFP