WHO warns Africa to become an ‘incubator’ to turn nCoV strains

Areas in Africa are at risk of becoming a breeding ground for strains resistant to the Covid-19 vaccine due to vaccine shortages and low vaccination rates.

“The worrying inequalities and severe delays in vaccine batches threaten to turn parts of Africa into breeding grounds for vaccine-resistant strains. This situation could bring the world back to where it started. “, Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, said during the weekly meeting in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of China on September 16.

Due to a global shortage of vaccines, the COVAX alliance will ship about 150 million doses of vaccine to Africa, less than planned. The WHO regional office says Africa will be short of about 470 million doses of the vaccine this year, leaving only 17% of the population fully protected, well below the 40% target set by the WHO.

“If rich countries still keep COVAX out of the vaccine market, Africa will miss vaccination targets,” Moetti said.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, attends a meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland 2018. Photo: Reuters.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, attends a meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland 2018. Photo: Reuters.

The vaccine shortage comes as Africa this week surpassed 8 million infections. About 95 million doses would have been delivered to Africa via Covax in September. “Africa can only immunize 50 million people, or 3.6% of the population,” according to WHO.

COVAX’s international funding mechanism is expected to help 92 difficult countries and territories receive free vaccines sponsored by rich countries. Last week, the program said vaccine supplies would be reduced due to “export bans, preference given to bilateral agreements between manufacturers and countries, and delayed application for approval”, along with other other reasons.

The world has recorded 202,338,692 nCoV infections and 4,289,467 deaths, an increase of 676,407 and 9,968 respectively, while 180,138,241 people have recovered, according to real-time statistics site Worldometers.

Countries around the world are making great efforts to promote vaccination to prevent new strains and return to normal life soon. Some countries have mandated vaccinations for workers in certain sectors, including health care workers.

Health Minister France Olivier Véran on September 16 announced the unpaid suspension of about 3,000 health workers who refused to vaccinate. Dozens of health workers have quit their jobs instead of getting vaccinated, but Véran insists that with about 2.7 million medical workers, health care in France is still guaranteed.

President Emmanuel Macron in July announced that hospital, nursing home and retirement facility staff as well as firefighters must have one shot or complete vaccinations by September 15. The French health authority estimates that nearly 12% of hospital staff and about 6% of private doctors have not been vaccinated.

Currently, nearly 47 million French people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, accounting for 81.4% of the population. 86.1% of the French population has received at least one injection.

Italy will extend the Covid “green card” to all workers to increase vaccination rates before winter flu season. The regulation that penalizes employees who do not receive vaccinations or do not have evidence of the most recent negative test for nCoV will take effect from October 15.

“We will extend green cards to all workers in both the public and private sectors,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said at a press conference after the government made the decision. “We do it for two basic reasons: to ensure a safer work environment and to promote the vaccination campaign.”

A green card is a certification that someone has received the Covid-19 vaccine, tested negative 48 hours ago, or recovered from Covid-19 recently. Currently, more than 40 million Italians are fully vaccinated, equivalent to 75% of the population over 12 years old. The government expects that number to increase by 4 million this year.

Italy is not the first European country to make it mandatory for workers to be vaccinated or tested regularly. Countries that have issued this regulation include Greece, Slovenia, and France.

In America, Idaho, the state with the lowest vaccination rate in the country, announced it will allocate medical care and remove ventilators from patients who are not likely to recover. The state health agency said it enacted the measure because of the rapid increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations, “depleting” existing resources.

“The situation is very serious,” said chief health officer Dave Jeppesen. “We don’t have the resources to adequately treat patients, whether they come in for Covid-19, heart attack or car accident.”

Jeppesen explained that under the new guidelines, hospitalized patients can either have no beds or be treated in places that have been converted into wards. Furthermore, “a person who is healthy and recovers more quickly can be treated or given a ventilator before someone who is not likely to recover”.

Only 46% of Idaho’s population of nearly 1.8 million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the lowest of 53 US states and territories. At the top is Puerto Rico with 77%. Nationally, 63% of the US population has received one or two shots of the vaccine.

Huyen Le (Follow AFP, Guardian)

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