African Union drops plans to buy COVID vaccines from India’s SSI, pivots to J&J

By Reuters

The African Union has dropped plans to secure COVID-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India for African nations and is exploring options with Johnson & Johnson, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

The institute will still supply the AstraZeneca vaccine to Africa through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, John Nkengasong told reporters, but the African Union would seek additional supplies from Johnson & Johnson.

The statement comes the day after European and British medicine regulators said they had found possible links between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and reports of very rare cases of brain blood clots, but they reaffirmed its importance in protecting people.

Nkengasong said the possible link had nothing to do with the African Union’s decision. The bloc of 55 member states shifted its efforts to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he said, citing the deal signed last week to secure up to 400 million doses beginning in the third quarter of this year.

“…It was just a clear understanding of how not to duplicate efforts with the Serum Institute, so that we compliment each other rather than duplicate efforts,” he said.

Kenyan Supermarkets selling pork and chicken contaminated by superbugs, study warns

By Grace Kuria

Research released on Wednesday by World Animal Protection found high levels of contamination in many meat samples across Kenya.

The highest contamination was found in pork and chicken brands managed by supermarkets.

Dr. Victor Yamo, campaigns manager at World Animal Protection, said 95 percent of meat sold in supermarkets in Kenya contains drug-resistant bacteria, commonly known as superbugs.

Superbugs are strains of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi resistant to most antibiotics and other medications commonly used to treat the infections they cause.

“The results showed high prevalence of bacterial contaminants in both pork at 98.4 percent and poultry at 96.6 percent,” Yamo said.

The survey report said 187 pork samples and 206 chicken samples were collected from six supermarket chains in six counties, including Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru, Laikipia, Uasin Gishu and Nyeri.

“Some of these organisms might not cause disease in humans, but if you have salmonella, then there is the possibility of contamination. Of critical importance is that the disease they cause affects old and young people and sometimes can lead to death at a certain level,” said Dr. Yamo.

The report showed there is a direct correlation between how animals are treated and the quality of the end product. Dr. Yamo noted that misuse of antibiotics in the food chain is impacting on public health.

“We need to understand the interconnectivity of all this. For example, when people learn there is a problem with meat, they start buying vegetables, yet it is these vegetables that are used as feeds by some for the animals… In another 8 years, we will be doubling what we consume in terms of antibiotics and that is a worrying trend,” added Dr. Yamo.

The laboratory analysis was done at the Centre for Microbiology Research at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), between April 2020 and July 2020.

The study also revealed that 60 per cent of the meat in supermarkets was found to have superbugs, brought about by high usage of antibiotics to treat animals.

(With input from Agencies)

Ethiopia reports 2,054 new COVID-19 cases

By XINHUA

Ethiopia registered 2,054 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 219,381 as of Tuesday evening, the country’s Ministry of Health said.

The ministry said 25 new deaths were reported across the country during the same period, bringing the national death toll to 3,025.

The East African country reported 934 more recoveries, taking the national count to 163,956.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, has so far reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the East African region.

The latest figures from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Ethiopia’s cases accounted for about 5 percent of the continent’s total, making it the fourth most affected country in Africa.

Ethiopia started COVID-19 inoculation last month after receiving the first 2.2 million COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX.

Last week, Ethiopia received a batch of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

Tanzania’s new president changes policy on COVID-19

By AP

Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu gives an address to heads of state and members of the public on September 14, 2019 during a farewell ceremony for the late former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Tanzania’s new president appears to be taking a new, scientific approach to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Tuesday she will form a technical committee to advise her about the scope of COVID-19 infections in the country and how to respond to the pandemic.

COVID-19 is “not something we should be quiet about or refuse flatly or accept without doing a scientific examination,” Hassan said in Swahili.

“We will do medical research which will tell us the scope of the problem and advise us about what the world is recommending as well as our own expertise,” she said.

Hassan, made the remarks that were broadcast live, after swearing key government officers in a hall in State House, the president’s official residence in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. More than 100 top government officials were present.

Opposition leader Tundu Lissu, in exile in Belgium, cautioned Tanzanians not to applaud Hassan’s announcements just yet.

“This will be no different from the Magufuli way of doing things. It’s Magufulism without Magufuli!” Lissu said in a Twitter post.

“It will not succeed. What is needed is strong systems of accountability of the government and its institutions. What is needed is more democracy, more justice, more accountability. What is needed is a New Constitution!”

In her address Tuesday to the country Hassan also ordered media houses that had been closed during her predecessor’s rule to be reopened. She also urged regional officials to encourage freedom of expression to allow members of the public to express their grievances without being intimidated.

Oxford-AstraZeneca trial dosing on children, teenagers paused

By CGTN Africa

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. /AP

A trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine on children and teenagers has been paused pending further information about rare blood-clotting issues in adults who have received it.

An Oxford spokesman speaking to the Wall Street Journal said that no safety issues have arisen in the trial itself, but broader concerns about rare clotting problems in adults have triggered further regulatory reviews in the U.K. and Europe to investigate any potential link with the vaccine.

The trial, which started in February, is assessing whether the jab produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and UK’s regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), are expected to give an update on its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.

The EMA’s safety committee has been reviewing very rare cases of unusual blood clots in people vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

It said that the committee had “not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing”.

The World Health Organization said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 outweigh any risk and that there was no evidence that the risk-benefit analysis had shifted on the jab.

(With input from agencies)

WHO to review Sinovac, Sinopharm vaccines by end April

By Jerry Omondi

VCG

Two Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be reviewed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use by the end of April, a spokesperson said.

The Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines have already been approved for emergency use in various countries around the world, boosting their mass inoculation drives.

If approved by WHO, the two vaccines will add onto a list of four other vaccines already given the greenlight for emergency use by the global health body.

The other vaccines include the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

European Medical Agency official links AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots

By Jerry Omondi

The European Medicines Agency has repeatedly said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects. /VCG

A top official from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has acknowledged that there is a link between AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots, but the cause is not yet clear, AFP reports.

“In my opinion, we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine. But we still do not know what causes this reaction,” AFP quotes EMA head of vaccines Marco Cavaleri to have said in an interview with Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

Cavaleri added that “in the next few hours, we will say that there is a connection, but we still have to understand how this happens”.

A number of countries – mostly in Europe – have stopped administering the AstraZeneca shots, citing potential adverse effects including possible blood clots.

The European regulator has however repeatedly noted that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.

The World Health Organization has also given the jabs a greenlight to continue being administered.

Pressure however continues to rise with reports of more deadly side-effects associated with the vaccine.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency announced over the weekend that seven people had dies from unusual blood clots after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Further data revealed that some 30 people out of 18 million vaccinated by 24 March had these clots.

It is still not clear if they are just a coincidence or a genuine side effect of the vaccine.

EMA said last week it continues to work with the national authorities in the EU Member States to ensure that suspected cases of unusual blood clots are reported, and that the cases are being analyzed.

The agency’s safety committee is expected to issue an updated recommendation during its plenary meeting  scheduled to be held between 6–9 April.

South Africa signs deal for 20 million Pfizer COVID-19 doses

By Reuters

Medical syringe is seen with Pfizer company logo displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on November 16, 2020. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

South Africa has signed an agreement with Pfizer Inc for 20 million dual shot COVID-19 vaccine doses, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday, boosting plans to start mass vaccinations from April.

The deal is in addition to the 31 million single-shot doses from Johnson & Johnson which the government approved on Thursday.

The first batch from Pfizer is expected to arrive later in April, Anban Pillay, Deputy Director-general at the Department of Health, told Reuters, but he did not comment on the price.

The government is buying the J&J vaccine for $10 per dose.

After the Pfizer deal, the government will have enough to vaccinate roughly 41 million people out of its total population of 60 million.

The country has also been allocated 12 million shots under the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme and is likely to get doses for 10 million people from the African Union’s AVATT initiative.

It is not clear whether the COVAX and AVATT doses will be a single shot, dual shot or a mix of both.

Zimbabwe’s capital decentralizes vaccine rollout to speed up process

By XINHUA

Zimbabwe’s capital Harare has opened more immunization centers in a bid to ramp up vaccinations against the pandemic.

Twenty-four center including hospitals, polyclinics and satellite clinics have been designated as vaccination centers in the city of about 1.5 million people, the Harare City Council said in a statement on Sunday.

Deserted streets are seen as part of coronavirus (COVID-19) measures in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Wilfred Kajese/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Vaccination is being rolled out during this Easter holiday period in hopes of attracting more people.

The government aims to vaccinate 10 million people out of the country’s 16 million people to archive herd immunity.

Zimbabweans are being vaccinated with the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines from China, and the country is also expecting delivery of more vaccines from Russia, India and the Covax global distribution scheme.

A total of 111,588 people in Zimbabwe have so far been vaccinated with Chinese vaccines since the national inoculation program began on Feb. 18, with more than 16,000 people receiving their first doses on Easter Friday alone.

More than 280,000 people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Kenya

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Kenya’s Ministry of Health reported more than 280,000 people have so far been vaccinated against the coronavirus just over a month after receiving its first doses of vaccine.

“A total of 282,518 people have been vaccinated across the country as of April 3, 2021,” the ministry tweeted on Sunday.

NAIROBI, KENYA – 2020/03/06: Health workers dressed in protective suits at the Coronavirus isolation ward in Mbagathi hospital amid Coronavirus fears in Nairobi. (Photo by Dennis Sigwe/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

On March 2, Kenya received 1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, through the COVAX facility, as part of an initial allocation of 3.56 million doses.

The government officially began a free nationwide vaccination campaign on March 5 but, in recent weeks, has been working to improve reluctance in uptake of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, including among frontline workers.

It also recently ordered an immediate suspension on private importations of vaccines citing fears that it may lead to counterfeit inoculations getting into the country.

Kenya is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections which has resulted in health facilities being overwhelmed and the government placing fresh restrictions in five regions, including the capital Nairobi, which were designated as hot spots.

The East African country has so far reported 138,988 confirmed cases and 2,224 deaths.