Three new Ebola cases confirmed in eastern Congo

By CGTN Africa

Three new Ebola cases have been confirmed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the total to five in the last 10 days, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

Health officials have said the latest flare-up of the virus appeared to be linked to the massive 2018-20 outbreak, which killed more than 2,200 people and infected more than 1,000 others.

The cases were detected on Saturday in the health district of Butsili, close to the city of Beni where the last outbreak was centered, the WHO said in a statement. Three people out of the five confirmed cases have died.

Flare-ups after a major Ebola outbreak can be caused by latent infections that linger in the semen of survivors. Another cluster of cases linked to the 2018-20 epidemic broke out in February and was contained by May after six deaths.

Vaccines have been a game-changer in containing recent outbreaks more quickly. Last week medics began vaccinating contacts of the cases using a shot manufactured by Merck. It is one of two available Ebola vaccines, the other made by Johnson & Johnson.

Over 20 million people in South Africa jabbed

By Halligan Agade

South Africa has reached the milestone of 20 million people who have received coronavirus vaccines, with  another 154,000 people added to the tally of those fully vaccinated.

SABC’s vaccination pop-up site, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 27, 2021. Gauteng provincial government have partnered up with the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters to reach as many people as possible to vaccinate against the virus. /Getty Images

That makes for some 35 percent of the adult population at least partially vaccinated.

In the 60+ age group, more than 60 percent of people have been vaccinated. Among those between 50 and 60 years old, more than 50 percent have been vaccinated.

Between the ages of 35 and 49, the proportion is more than 40 percent – for women. Among men of that age, the proportion drops to a little over 35 percent. But young adults, those up to 34, drag the average down, with only 23 percent of women and less than 17 percent of men in that bracket having been vaccinated.

South Africa also has 10.7 million people considered fully vaccinated – under the current regime, where a single dose of J&J counts.

On Friday, the United States moved towards treating J&J as a two-dose vaccine, on the back of data showing its efficacy shoots up after a booster shot. In South Africa, some 4.6 million people have received a single dose of the J&J vaccine. If the definition of fully vaccinated were to change to exclude them until they receive another dose, it would set things back by roughly a month, at the current rate of vaccination.

It is expected that around 6.5 million people will be added to the country’s tally when vaccinations for children between 12 and 17 will kick off next week.

At a little under 27 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated, South Africa is tracking well behind a global average of around 37 percent.

The world as a whole has now administered more than 6.6 billion doses, and the totals for people who have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and those considered fully vaccinated, are on track to hit 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively, soon.

Around 30 countries have reached or exceeded the herd immunity target South Africa has set for itself, of being two-thirds fully vaccinated, before the end of the year.

That includes the rich nations of Europe, and small island states such as the Maldives. But also in that group is countries South Africa may consider closer to being comparable, such as Chile, Uruguay, and Malaysia.

On the continent, Morocco counts more than half its population fully vaccinated, and Tunisia is above a third. Beyond those, and Zimbabwe, which is tracking close to South Africa’s level of vaccination, things go from bad to worse.

Many countries are still officially at below 1 percent fully vaccinated, something that is exceedingly rare elsewhere on the planet outside of disaster zones such as Yemen and Haiti.

(With input from agencies)

Uganda’s National Medical Stores mandates COVID-19 vaccination for employees, visitors

By Jerry Omondi

Uganda rolled out its mass vaccination drive in March 2021, with the aim of containing further spread of COVID-19 (Photo by Luke Dray / Getty Images via CFP) 

Starting Monday, October 18, employees and visitors to Uganda’s National Medical Stores (NMS) will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before accessing the premises, the body’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Sheila Nduhukire, said.

The move is aimed at enabling the body to become fully compliant with a government policy on vaccination as a measure of curbing further spread of the virus.

“As a government agency mandated to buy, store and distribute medicines, including COVID-19 vaccines, it is only right that we lead by example. And that is why we have requested all our employees to present proof of vaccination with immediate effect and all visitors coming to NMS premises starting on Monday, 18th,” said Nduhukire.

“We are doing this because we want to encourage Ugandans to take the vaccine, but also to do our part to protect those that have already chosen the prevention route, which is getting vaccinated, so that they reduce the severity of the disease,” she added.

The East African country rolled out its mass vaccination drive in March, with the aim of containing further spread of the virus.

By Saturday, the total number of doses administered stood at 2,459,038.

The country has so far reported 125,094 confirmed cases of the virus with 3,182 fatalities, according to the latest data from the health ministry.

Republic of the Congo to vaccinate 4 mln people against yellow fever

By XINHUA

The Republic of the Congo’s Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee for Immunization adopted Saturday a plan to implement the preventive vaccination campaign against yellow fever.

According to the committee, this campaign aims to reach at least four million people aged between 9 and 60.

“Our country is part of the yellow fever epidemic belt,” the country’s Minister of Health and Population Gilbert Mokoki said, adding that according to the latest epidemiological analysis, the country is at the risk of yellow fever epidemics.

The main objective of this prevention campaign is to increase the level of immunity of the population against yellow fever in all health districts across the country and prevent yellow fever epidemics, said Mokoki.

In 2018, the country had already organized, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and its partners, a vaccination campaign that managed to immunize more than one million people in six days.

Africa’s COVID-19 cases surpass 8.4 million

By XINHUA

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 8,402,139 cases as of Wednesday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the African Union, said the death toll from the pandemic across the continent stands at 214,656.

Some 7,770,156 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease so far, according to the agency.

South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Ethiopia are among the countries with the most cases in the continent, according to the agency.

In terms of the caseload, southern Africa is the most affected region, followed by the northern and eastern parts of the continent, while central Africa is the least affected region in the continent, according to the Africa CDC.

Medical Aid Groups Welcome Plans by Moderna to Build Plant in Africa

Officials receive boxes of Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 6, 2021.

NAIROBI — Medical aid groups are welcoming plans by U.S. drug maker Moderna to build a plant for manufacturing vaccines in Africa. The groups say the plant, the first from a company making a COVID-19 vaccine, will help in fighting vaccine inequality.

African countries are facing a shortfall of nearly 500 million COVID-19 vaccines according to the World Health Organization.

The shortage has left most countries unable to vaccinate even the most vulnerable 10 percent of their populations.

Last week, U.S. drug maker Moderna announced plans to build a plant on the African continent. Its statement is raising hope Africa will have a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the future.

Medical aid groups say although the plan will boost Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, the continent still needs an immediate solution to shortages. Dr. Githinji Gitahi is the chief executive officer at Amref Health Africa.

“As significant as it is because of the high financial commitment of 500 million dollars, there are several other factors to consider,” said Gitahi. “One, that factory will not be a solution to the current challenge of vaccine access in Africa. If the factory is going to be ready in 2-4 years Africa wants to vaccinate at least 70% of its population by the end of June next year. Therefore, Africa still demands the most important step in redistribution of doses earmarked for rich countries to come into Africa.”

Although Moderna has yet to say where it will build the factory, at least 10 countries, among them Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Senegal, have expressed an interest in hosting the facility.

Dr. Willis Akhwale, the chairman of Kenya’s vaccination task force, says Moderna will need to look at the project as a partnership with the host country.

“If Moderna is coming to open, they should come with an open mind that they are bringing technological transfer, not just setting up a factory,” said Akhwale. “Therefore, they need to transfer that technology to the host country. The other thing is capacity building of the local people beyond just the COVID-19 vaccine towards the whole human vaccine manufacturing.”

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention welcomes the idea of manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine on the continent.

Dr. Bernhards Ogutu, chief research officer at the center’s office in Kenya, says although the process is likely to take a long time, it’s a promising sign for making health care more available in Africa.

“If we really want health care affordable and accessible to all, then we must start doing a lot of production of health commodities in the region,” he said.

By September, an estimated 5.2 billion COVID vaccine doses had been administered globally but only 2 percent of those were in Africa. African medical groups say they hope that the manufacturing of such vaccines on the continent will prevent such unequal distribution in the future.

https://www.voanews.com/a/medical-aid-groups-welcome-plans-by-moderna-to-build-plant-in-africa/6267639.html

US Donates 3.5 Million Pfizer Vaccine Doses to Nigeria

A man is administered a Moderna COVD-19 vaccine outside a mosque on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 8, 2021.

WASHINGTON — The United States is sending more than 3.5 million doses of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, a White House official told VOA on Tuesday.

“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions,” the official said. “Our vaccines do not come with strings attached. We are doing this with the singular objective of saving lives.”

The 3,577,860 doses, which the White House said began shipping to Nigeria on Tuesday, follows a July donation of 4 million doses of the two-shot Moderna vaccine. The donation was processed through COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative.

Nigeria has reported at least 2,747 deaths from the virus and some 208,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization. However, medical officials in Africa and overseas have expressed concern that the African continent’s true COVID-19 situation has been underdiagnosed and underreported.

A security official examine workers COVID-19 vaccination passes in Benin City capital of Edo State, southern Nigeria, on Sept. 16, 2021.
A security official examine workers COVID-19 vaccination passes in Benin City capital of Edo State, southern Nigeria, on Sept. 16, 2021.

On the continent, South Africa remains at the epicenter, with at least 88,317 deaths counted by WHO, and more than 2.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious coronavirus.

With more than 206 million people, Nigeria is a lower middle-income country, according to World Bank data. Nigeria has also accepted donations of vaccines from Russia, plus donations of diagnostic and treatment equipment, and test kits from China and South Korea, its Ministry of Health said.

As of this month, just over 7.2 million vaccine doses have been administered, according to WHO. That’s a far cry from the goal shared by Nigerian authorities to vaccinate 40% of its population — about 80 million people — by the end of 2021.

The nation appears to be emerging from a third viral wave, with a height of about 5,000 daily reported cases. The second wave, the nation’s worst, peaked in January, with nearly 12,000 new cases reported in one day, according to WHO data.

In September, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would donate 500 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to low-income and lower-middle-income countries. In all, the United States has now pledged 1.1 billion doses.

Health care workers await doses to start vaccinating people with Pfizer vaccines at the Bertha Gxowa Hospital in Germiston, South Africa, May 17, 2021.
Health care workers await doses to start vaccinating people with Pfizer vaccines at the Bertha Gxowa Hospital in Germiston, South Africa, May 17, 2021.

But aid groups say this is not enough, coming from the world’s wealthiest nation.

“Despite its claim to be a global leader on COVID-19, the U.S. is hoarding nearly 500 million excess COVID-19 vaccine doses — more than any other country,” said Dr. Carrie Teicher, director of programs at Doctors Without Borders’ U.S. branch. “It’s reckless and dangerous for the U.S. and other high-income countries to be sitting on excessive stocks of COVID-19 vaccines while others — including in many places where MSF (Doctors Without Borders) is battling surges of COVID-19 — are desperate to provide their most vulnerable people with even their first dose.”

U.S. officials have been criticized for urging booster shots for vulnerable Americans while vaccination rates are low in the developing world. The White House casts the controversy over booster shots as a false choice, claiming the U.S. can help vaccinate the world while also protecting Americans.

According to projections by the Oxford University COVID-19 database Our World in Data, only one nation in sub-Saharan Africa — the tiny enclave nation of Lesotho — is on track to meet the target of inoculating 40% of its population with at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of 2021.

Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-donates-3-5-million-pfizer-vaccine-doses-to-nigeria/6267843.html

WHO Ghana supports ongoing COVID-19 vaccine rollout with digital tablets

By CGTN Africa

Dr Sally Ann Ohene DPC Officer presenting the tablets to Dr Kwame Amponsah-Achiano, EPI Manager, GHS./WHO

The World Health Organization has reiterated its commitment to helping the Government of Ghana achieve its set target for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by presenting 1,000 pieces of digital tablets to support the ongoing vaccination campaign.

Presenting the items to the Ghana Health Service, Dr Sally-Ann Ohene, Disease Prevention and Control Officer at the World Health Organization Ghana Country Office said the tablets were to be used to scale up e-registration at the various vaccination centres and help reduce delays in data entry.

“With funding support from the Government of Canada, WHO Ghana plans to present additional 500 digital tablets to the Ghana Health Service”, Dr Ohene hinted. The Programme Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, who received the items on behalf of the Ghana Health Service, expressed appreciation to the kind gesture.

Dr Amponsa-Achiano stated that the donation of the tablets was very timely and would be deployed immediately to the field for use in the ongoing vaccination campaign. The digital tablets are anticipated to be useful for data capturing in other health interventions beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data suggests mRNA booster dose generates stronger antibody response after J&J shot

By Reuters

In this photo illustration a Johnson & Johnson logo is seen in front of a medical syringe and a vial with coronavirus vaccine. Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

People who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will have a stronger neutralizing antibody response if they get an mRNA shot as the second dose, Axios reported on Tuesday, citing a person who has seen data collected by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

J&J has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a shot of its own single-dose vaccine as the booster dose. The FDA’s advisers are set to consider the need on Friday.

The NIH will present the mix-and-match data to the FDA panel on Friday, Axios said.

There were limitations to the NIH data, according to the report. Neutralizing antibodies only prevent the virus from entering cells and replicating, and the report said it was unclear how long the response will last.

The NIH, FDA, and J&J did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Two-dose vaccines made by Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech and Moderna Inc use mRNA technology.

The health regulator’s outside experts will also discuss the need for an additional dose of Moderna’s vaccine on Friday.

Scientists at the FDA have said Moderna had not met all of the agency’s criteria to support the use of booster doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, possibly because the efficacy of the shot’s first two doses has remained strong.

South Africa eases COVID-19 crowd restrictions for World Cup game

By AFP

Ronwen Williams controls the ball in the Men’s First Round Group A match between Japan and South Africa during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. / Getty Images

A maximum of 2,000 spectators can attend a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Ethiopia in Johannesburg on Tuesday as the republic eases COVID-19 restrictions introduced last year.

“The government has approved that a limited number of spectators will be allowed back into the stadium,” a national football association statement said.

All sport in South Africa was canceled in March 2020 as the first wave of the coronavirus hit the most industrialized African nation. Play resumed five months later in empty stadiums.

The lack of spectators inflicted severe financial hardship on the three most popular sports, cricket, football and rugby.

South Africa has been the country hardest hit in Africa by the pandemic with 2.91 million official cases and 88,317 deaths by Sunday.

Long-time strugglers, the national team are enjoying a resurgence in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, leading more fancied Ghana by one point halfway through a six-round mini-league.