Coronavirus

The Bioethics Of COVID Boosters When 2% Of Africa Is Vaccinated

Affluent countries have begun offering COVID-19 boosters to already fully vaccinated citizens. Meanwhile in some low-income countries, access to doses is virtually non-existent.

Should countries that can afford COVID-19 booster vaccines offer them to residents if scientists recommend them?

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has made his position clear, calling for countries to impose a moratorium on boosters until 10% of people in every country are vaccinated. His plea comes amid mounting concerns about the slow progress getting COVID-19 vaccines to people in low-income countries.

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Bravo Italy For World’s Strictest Vaccine Mandate - But Where’s Mario?

Italy's new "Super Green Pass" is great, but where's "Super Mario"? Such a sweeping measure, which requires workers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, risks encroaching on the fundamental right to work. It's necessary right now, but also needs Prime Minister Mario Draghi to explain why.

-OpEd-

ROME — There is not a single good reason to criticize Italy's new "Super Green Pass", the new decree announced on Thursday that will mandate more than 20 million of the country's workers to prove they've tested negative to COVID-19 or that they've been vaccinated to work, beginning Oct 15.

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Spiderman To Jewish Stars: Global Vaccine Protests Get Ugly

More protests are bound to spread after President Biden announced that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of U.S. workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

Vaccines used to be a quiet thing: someone getting a flu shot or UNICEF shipping off jabs to children in a faraway country. No longer. COVID-19 has put vaccinations at the center of both global health policy and national partisan politics — and plenty of noise has ensued.

After some initial demonstrations earlier this year critical of slow vaccination rollouts, protests are now firmly focused on local and national policies that require vaccines, including obligatory jabs for medical workers and the so-called "green pass" vaccine-required access to certain locations and activities. No doubt more protests are bound to spread in the United States after last week's announcement by U.S. President Joe Biden that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

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When Will COVID End? The Question That Won't Go Away

Vaccination was supposed to free us from the pandemic's frightening grip. Things would go back to normal, with parties and hugs and everything else. But now with the Delta variant, and the vaccines less than full-proof, COVID is again dominating our collective psyche.

-Essay-

BOGOTA — I often say, even if it's not really true, that I never get my hopes up too high. That way I can avoid disappointment. Only, life loses a good deal of its charm if you're rarely excited about anything. As Armando Manzanero's song (on nocturnal fantasies!) says, "Who cares if I live on dreams/If it makes me happy?"

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Coronavirus
Alidad Vassigh

Nurse In Mexico "Too Tired" To Inject COVID Vaccine

Video captures doseless jab...

VERACRUZ — A nurse in the eastern Mexican port of Veracruz has become the poster child for "pandemic fatigue" after a video showing her jabbing a patient but failing to actually inject the COVID-19 vaccine made the rounds of social media.

Her excuse? The healthcare worker says she was simply "too tired" to administer the dose, the newspaper Excelsior reported this week. She noted that staff working at the vaccination point, in the state's Luis Pirata Fuente stadium, had been working long days for the vaccinations.

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Coronavirus
Alexander Gillespie

New Zealand's COVID Exceptionalism Risks Unraveling

As New Zealand grapples to bring a Delta outbreak under control and to accelerate the vaccination rollout, social cohesion is vital for a successful elimination strategy.

Political consensus on elimination has endured so far. Unlike the anti-mask and anti-vaccination movements elsewhere, most New Zealanders continue to back the prime minister's decision to place the country under the strictest lockdown.

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Coronavirus
Melanie Loos, with contributions from Tobias Kaiser and Maximilian Kalkhof

Vaccine Hoarding: The False Promise Of Global Herd Immunity

Developed countries have promised to supply poorer countries with vaccines, but so far Europe is lagging behind in donations. With pure politics determining which countries receive vaccines, the broken vow is a threat to everyone.

BERLIN — In Germany, like in other Western countries, politicians and scientists are debating the merits of vaccines for children and booster jabs. Yet elsewhere, authorities are facing far more fundamental problems in tackling coronavirus. In many countries, especially across Africa, older people and other at-risk groups haven't even had their first vaccine, as there aren't enough doses available.

Although more than 4 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, not every country has had an equal share: in more developed countries, around half of the population is fully vaccinated, while in the poorest it's less than 2%.

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Geopolitics
Adriana Alcázar González, Mar García and Marissa Revilla 

Why So Many In Mexico Don't Trust The Coronavirus Vaccine

Despite the pandemic's heavy toll, people remain reluctant to inoculate, in part because of persistent doubts about the country's public health system.

TUXTLA GUTIÉRREZ Sitting in her sister's restaurant in the smothering midday heat of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, in Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas, Ricarda Jiménez Tevera prepares a cuchunuc flower freshly cut from the tree for cooking. Later the flower will be part of traditional dishes such as quesadillas or tamales, but for now Jiménez Tevera is fired up about something else.

"I've never been vaccinated; I don't believe in vaccines," says the forceful Jiménez Tevera, gray-white hair tied in a ponytail. "We're used to taking herbs. A lot of people aren't going to get vaccinated."

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Geopolitics
Claudia Lafrance and Olivier Marbot*

The Rush To Reverse Africa's Dismal Vaccination Rate

As many parts of the continent face a brutal third wave, the urgency to vaccinate is growing. But the obstacles are many, including a stubborn strain of vaccine hesitancy.

Vaccination against COVID-19 remains a challenge in Africa. The Delta variant is spreading on the continent and the third wave of the pandemic is causing fears of more sudden and concentrated arrivals of severely affected patients in hospitals. The situation is all the more worrisome given the lack of capacity to care for them. Some facilities are already saturated. The situation is particularly problematic in South Africa, where it's winter now, in North Africa (especially Tunisia), and in Uganda, so much so that the specter of an "Indian-style" scenario is increasingly being raised.

So far, just over 6 million cases and 155,000 deaths have been recorded on the continent. But these figures could be underestimated, as the data is fragmented. In all, 51 countries on the continent (including the Maghreb) have received roughly 70 million doses from various sources, and 18 million people are now protected by two jabs. That means that less than 2% of the African population has been vaccinated, numbers that are simply "unacceptable," the World Bank's director of operations, Axel van Trotsenburg, recently said.

"The Covax system was supposed to provide us with doses, but we can see that it not functioning very well," laments Dr. Moumouni Kinda, executive director of the NGO Alima, which has just launched a vaccination support and awareness campaign in six countries.

"The situation is very disparate. In some countries, there is a shortage of doses, in others people have received the first dose but are unable to get the second," he adds. "We must change our methods, otherwise the third wave that is hitting southern Africa will also arrive in West Africa and this will be a failure for everyone. We must opt for active vaccination, that is to say, we must sensitize the populations and go to them, not wait for them to come to the centers."

Complicating matters is the fact that a large part of the African population is also reluctant to be vaccinated. This mistrust is even fueled by some leaders. In addition to legitimate questions, there are prejudices and conspiracy theories about alleged attempts at poisoning or even disguised sterilization. Last December, only a quarter of respondents of a survey conducted by the African Union's Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 18 countries across the continent believed that coronavirus vaccines were safe. At the same time, 79% of respondents said they would accept an injection if it was proven safe.

We must stop thinking that in Africa, we do not vaccinate properly!

"Too much fake news is circulating, especially on social networks," says Dr. Amavi Edinam Agbenu, who works with the WHO's Africa division. "Citizens don't necessarily have all the data to analyze it and we are working to bring them information as soon as we can."

Media campaigns, creating informational videos, and support for state communication are now among the organization's priorities on the continent.

"Resistance to the vaccine has many sources: confusion in communication, lack of clear information, the reputation of AstraZeneca, which some European countries have suspended for a while," Alima's Dr. Kinda explains. "So we use community networks, people who are able to explain things to people. But we also need to be transparent about the side effects of vaccines, document them and inform seriously, to reassure people."

Complicating matters is the fact that a large part of the African population is reluctant to be vaccinated — Photo: Robert Bonet/NurPhoto/ZUMA

The NGO director also deplores what he calls "contradictory messages," explaining that some people who send doses to Africa refuse to allow nationals of our countries, even though they have been vaccinated, to enter their country. "This is very regrettable and does not reassure people," he says. "The suspicion must stop. We have a good experience with mass vaccinations. If necessary we are able to go to villages, to go door to door… We know how to do it. We must stop thinking that in Africa, we do not vaccinate properly!"

Amavi Edinam Adgbenu, a pharmacy doctor and expert in immunology, agrees. "African countries may have a limited income, but their health systems are often well trained and able to carry out large-scale vaccination campaigns," he says. "They are used to vaccinating more than 10 million people in one week against yellow fever, meningitis, or polio, for example."

In addition to the Covax package, which announced 31.5 million Pfizer doses for Africa by the end of August, the African Union has secured 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one injection. The shipments are expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2021. According to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for the continent, the number of available doses are expected to be much higher in July and August. The WHO says that 25 million will be sent from the United States in the next few weeks and another 3.5 million from Norway, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom.

The rate of the use of vaccines received varies considerably from one region to another

The World Bank and several African leaders met earlier this month to discuss the development aid expected for the next three years, especially to fight the pandemic. But NGOs are concerned that donated doses will expire too quickly for countries to have time to roll out their campaigns.

Paradoxically, despite the shortage, batches of the vaccine have recently expired in the DRC, Health Minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani announced on July 14. And this is not an isolated case. Other countries are failing to administer them in time. In May, Malawi destroyed nearly 20,000 expired doses. The DRC, South Sudan and South Africa have also sent back doses, either because they were about to expire or because they refused the AstraZeneca vaccine, which did not work against the South African variant. Cameroon, seeing the deadline for its doses approaching, stepped up its vaccination campaigns last week. In all, some 20 sub-Saharan countries are still at risk, with some doses expiring by the end of the summer.

The WHO and CDC centers in Africa have been supporting governments for months in organizing their vaccination campaigns. Regular monitoring of stocks and their expiration dates has been put in place. "In some countries, the use of certain brands of vaccine has been frozen to clear priority uses," says Edinam Agbenu. Vaccination has also been opened earlier than planned to non-priority targets.

But the rate of the use of vaccines received varies considerably from one region to another. According to the latest figures available to WHO, Morocco, Angola and Rwanda have administered all their doses, followed closely by Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Tunisia, Ghana, Uganda and South Sudan, which have exceeded 90% use. Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, and Eswatini are at around 80%

Some 30 countries have been less quick to develop their vaccine campaigns and have used between 30% and 80% of their doses, while seven others are really lagging behind. Some started their campaigns late. And it is possible that not all data has been reported.

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Geopolitics
Christina zur Nedden

Role Model No More: Why COVID Is Spreading In Asia

Asia was considered a role model in the fight against the pandemic. But now COVID-19 numbers are rising, forcing lockdowns just as the U.S. and Europe regain their freedom thanks in large part to high vaccination rates.

When Panji Respati comes home from work, he has seen at least one person die that day. The young doctor works at a clinic in Bandung, Java, Indonesia. At the moment, he says, there are approximately 150 people in the emergency room. His clinic is overcrowded and his colleagues are overwhelmed. "It's mainly older people and those with pre-existing conditions who are dying, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated once, twice, or not at all," Respati tells Die Welt by telephone.

Like most Indonesians who have received a vaccine despite the limited supply, they have been immunized with the Chinese vaccine Chinese vaccine Sinovac. The physician himself has been double-vaccinated and still contracted the Delta variant. "That's how it is for some here," he says.

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Coronavirus
Bruno Meyerfeld

COVID-19 Lessons From Brazil's ‘’Vaccine Revolt’’ Of 1904

A government health campaign to vaccinate the citizens of Rio de Janeiro provoked a violent insurrection. More than a century later, Brazilians are demanding immunization against COVID-19 from their anti-vax president.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Streetcars overturned and set on fire. Trees ripped from the earth. Roads transformed into battlefields, between barricades and police attacks. Overlooking Rio de Janeiro, in the grip of a deadly epidemic, the city's iconic Sugarloaf Mountain contemplates the scene of lawlessness as thousands of insurgent inhabitants chant through the streets: "Death to the police! Down with the vaccine!"

Fear not: this scene is not taking place in 2021, but more than a century earlier, in November 1904. The "marvelous city" was on fire, in the grip of what is, to this day, one of the most violent popular insurrections in its history: the "Vaccine Revolt." It's an episode of Brazilian history that is little known abroad, but vividly remembered in its home country, especially in the time of COVID-19.

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Geopolitics
Catherine Chatignoux

It's Only Getting Harder To Be A Syrian Refugee In Turkey

The four million Syrians living in Turkey were already facing great difficulties, and the pandemic only made their lives more uncertain. But there's another truth they know must face.

GAZIANTEP — The lives of Adnan, Yasmin, Ajib and Muhammed, Syrian refugees settled in Turkey, was already a long, long hardship. When the coronavirus arrived, hardship turned into devastation.

While refugees in Lebanon and Syria are housed and fed in camps, the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey are integrated within major cities and suburbs, and must find work. These families — which rarely have fewer than four children — live on a single daily salary, usually in the construction, agriculture or small businesses sectors. With COVID-19, these opportunities have become scarce, plunging entire families into destitution.

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Ideas
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Vaccines v. Variants: When Can We Put The Pandemic Behind Us?

As the first coronavirus wave finally abated late last spring, experts warned us that the pandemic was far from over. Second and third (and more) waves were likely, and new restrictions would be necessary to limit the death toll. There was only one sure way out of these pandemic times, a vaccine, which could take years to develop.

And yet today, despite the seemingly miraculous arrival of effective vaccines, and more than three billion doses already administered around the world, we still find ourselves asking the Question: When will it end?

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Economy
Yann Rousseau

Yakuza Blues: Japan's Notorious Gangsters Hit Hard By COVID

The infamous (yet legal) Japanese criminal syndicate was already suffering under new laws when the pandemic hit. Now its business model is crumbling.

TOKYO — Strands of bleached blond hair falling on eyes smeared with kohl, low rise skinny jeans, an oversized wallet hanging out of their back pocket... These "host boys' wait for their midnight shifts in front of the Otsuu restaurant in Kabukicho, Tokyo's "hot" district. This is also the stomping ground of yakuzas, Japan's notorious gangsters.

Cabs block Hanamichi street as they pick up the first drunk customers of the evening. Hawkers swarm everywhere, looking to lure new clients into their clubs or convince lost young women to start a career in nightlife. Watching the hubbub unfold to the echoes of booming sound systems, you would never guess the Japanese capital was under a state of emergency.

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Geopolitics
Worldcrunch

The Latest: China Blocks WHO, Taliban Take Kandahar, Russian Bear Mistake

Welcome to Friday, where China blocks the WHO on COVID origins, the Taliban capture Kandahar and a Russian politician makes a deadly bear error. We also have a Die Welt article on the tiny country that isn't afraid to take on China.


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