•   
  •   

World Behind South Africa's slow Covid vaccine rollout

04:01  05 may  2021
04:01  05 may  2021 Source:   bbc.com

Vaccine rollout in England extends to 44-year-olds

  Vaccine rollout in England extends to 44-year-olds The NHS plans to set out when 40 to 43-year-olds will be invited for the jab "in the coming days".Two-thirds of the previous age group - 45 to 49-year-olds - have received their first dose.

South Africa was swift to impose a strict lockdown and rigorous testing at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but its vaccination programme can best be described as stuttering - despite it having the worst mortality rate on the African continent.

a man wearing a neck tie: President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the first to be vaccinated in February but since then the rollout has hit problems © AFP President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the first to be vaccinated in February but since then the rollout has hit problems   Behind South Africa's slow Covid vaccine rollout © BBC

In January, the country appeared to be finally out of the blocks - and faster than other African countries when it came to getting hold of the vaccines - but the rollout has since faltered.

With only 0.5% of the population vaccinated, South Africa lags behind the likes of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

What ‘Taking the Pandemic Seriously’ Means Now

  What ‘Taking the Pandemic Seriously’ Means Now We need new laws, new policies, and new scientific processes to ensure that we never have to go through this again. We need to pandemic-proof America—and, just as urgently, to pandemic-proof the world.So how do we do that? We can (and should) talk about better testing, or better ventilation, or clearer public-health communications. But all of these solutions are provincial compared with the single best way to pandemic-proof the planet: We need to vaccinate the world much, much faster.Global vaccine inequality is stark.

The government has had to push back its target of injecting 40 million South Africans, about two-thirds of the population, by December to next March.

table: Coronavirus vaccines in Africa. Selected countries' vaccination rates. This shows the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose of a vaccine. © Provided by BBC News Coronavirus vaccines in Africa. Selected countries' vaccination rates. This shows the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

And with winter fast approaching there are concerns about a third wave of coronavirus infections - particularly as not all frontline health workers have yet been jabbed.

Critics say that had officials planned better millions, instead of 300,000, would be vaccinated by now. Last year, the government talked tough about how seriously it was taking the virus and how closely it was following the science.

America’s Challenge Isn’t Vaccine Hesitancy. It’s COVID-19 Denialism.

  America’s Challenge Isn’t Vaccine Hesitancy. It’s COVID-19 Denialism. Reluctance to get vaccinated is concentrated among young conservatives, who are skeptical of the pandemic’s harms.The researchers found widespread hesitation. Nearly two-thirds of Americans were unwilling to receive a shot. But those qualms were relatively evenly distributed in the population. Older people were more willing to get the vaccine than younger ones, and white and Latino people (about 37 percent each) were more willing than Black people (25 percent). Democrats (39.6 percent) were more willing than Republicans (32.2 percent), but the spread was small.

Yet when it came time to securing vaccines, the country seemed to rely on getting them through the global-sharing Covax scheme.

The idea behind the initiative was to pool resources to support the development of vaccines with a view to ensure that all countries received a fair supply of effective vaccines.

But wealthier nations have seemingly stymied its effectiveness by doing deals with manufacturers guaranteeing themselves a supply meaning Covax has struggled to obtain enough doses.

AstraZeneca vaccines rejected

Covax aside, South Africa's vaccine programme had other problems.

The country eventually secured a deal in January to buy the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, paying more than double the amount charged to the European Union.

Then in February a study in South Africa involving some 2,000 people found that the vaccine offered "minimal protection" against mild and moderate cases of the coronavirus variant that is most common in the country.

Poorer countries might not get Covid-19 vaccinated until 2023

  Poorer countries might not get Covid-19 vaccinated until 2023 This inequality is baked into the vaccine manufacturing process.If these glaring inequities in vaccine access continue, it will take at least two years for the world’s poorest countries, who couldn’t compete for early doses of vaccines, to immunize 60 percent of their populations.

As a result, the vaccine programme was put on hold, and South Africa sold its one million doses to the African Union.

graphical user interface © Provided by BBC News

Prof Shabir Madhi, who led the AstraZeneca trials in South Africa, said the sale was a mistake, as the vaccines already acquired should have been used for high-risk people.

"The AstraZeneca will still protect against severe disease, even if it didn't protect against mild and moderate case," local media quoted him as saying.

"Selling our AstraZeneca vaccines was a miscalculation by our government; one that has set us back by several months in terms of our vaccination rollout."

In February the country did become the first in the world to administer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine after studies showed it had a higher protection rate against the South African variant than other jabs.

Johnson & Johnson delay

It was issued before its licence was granted as part of a trial, known as the Sisonke study, to vaccinate heath workers

Though this too hit a hurdle early in April when the US Food and Drug Administration suspended it after it found six people had developed a rare blood clot after having the vaccine.

Australia administers 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, well short of initial targets

  Australia administers 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, well short of initial targets This week Australia passed a milestone, administering 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. That's 3 million doses fewer than the government's initial forecast.The rollout is in phase 1a and phase 1b of the federal government's rollout plan, which includes vaccinating:

South Africa followed suit, saying it needed time to consult local health experts on how to procced.

a person holding a cell phone: The vaccination programme was halted while the J&J vaccine was checked © Getty Images The vaccination programme was halted while the J&J vaccine was checked

The suspension was lifted later in the month, yet unlike the US, South Africa had not had the luxury of changing to another vaccine during the J&J suspension.

"The lesson here is to truly consider the benefit-risk ratio before taking such a decision," the Businesstech website quotes Prof Madhi as saying.

It is a sentiment shared by Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa from the South African Medical Association, an advocacy organisation for doctors.

More on South Africa's Covid crisis:

  • The women fighting South Africa's 'infodemic'
  • The doctors using unproven worm drug to treat Covid-19
  • A day in the life of a South African contact tracer

"At the time of the US decision we had our own data from more than 200,000 health workers who were part of the Sisonke trial," he told the BBC.

"What the government should have done was look at that data first and see whether there had been any reports of a similar problem instead of simply copying and pasting what the US were doing and stopping the trial abruptly."

'Delays create suspicion'

Dr Mzukwa is concerned that the way the J&J issue may contribute to vaccine hesitancy.

Biden Has the Power to Vaccinate the World

  Biden Has the Power to Vaccinate the World He should use it.

"It may cause more suspicion now. The government will need to make a concerted effort to assure communities, in their own language that the vaccine is safe to take, if they don't we may find ourselves facing vaccine hesitancy and we can't afford that in vulnerable communities."

chart, histogram © BBC

And some do have the jitters, like Johannesburg-based insurance salesman Langa Mavuso, who told the BBC he would not get the injection unless it became mandatory, despite the World Health Organization saying the vaccines are safe, with some experiencing only mild side effects.

"I personally don't want to be the first to get the vaccine. What if there are irreversible problems?"

Even physiotherapist Donna Dudley is nervous but may get the injection to protect her patients.

For Johannesburg estate agent Eniel Noeth it all comes down to safety: "I'm happy about the delays because I believe that testing still continues during this time and hopefully when improvements have been made to the vaccines."

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize agrees any pauses were not an overreaction and has rejected accusations that the vaccination programme has been haphazard.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines started arriving in South Africa earlier this week © SA government Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines started arriving in South Africa earlier this week

And he does not foresee further delays, recently announcing that the country had now secured a total of 51 million jabs from various manufacturers to be delivered in tranches during the course of the year:

  • J&J - 31 million (single dose required)
  • Pfizer/BioNTech - 20 million (two doses required) - the first batch arrived on Sunday night and a local drugs plant will also start releasing the vaccine later in May.

The vaccinations will then be done in three phases:

  • From beginning of May - all health workers not already jabbed
  • From 17 May - people aged over 60 and those with other health problems
  • From around November, the general population.

But for some, the plan is just too slow.

Reality Check:

  • New virus variants causing concern in Africa
  • African countries running out of vaccines

"Hundreds of people come in and out of the shop every day, yes we take measures to protect ourselves but I want the vaccine so I'm sure I've done everything to protect my family," Thembeka Mnisi, a retail store manager and mother of two told the BBC.

Prof Thumbi Ndung'u, deputy director of the African Health Research Institute, says there is an urgency in light of new waves and mutations.

"We need to be vaccinating people at a much faster rate than we are doing currently," he told the BBC.

"It is important that our government learns some lessons from other countries such as India on how devastating this virus can be."

Biden agreed to waive vaccine patents. But will that help get doses out faster? .
Vaccinating the world will be tough. Here’s what intellectual property waivers can and can’t do.The reversal came as Covid-19 deaths are mounting in India and elsewhere. The vaccination program in the US is going well, but much of the world is still waiting for vaccines, which has made the role of pharmaceutical companies and intellectual property in the global vaccine effort the subject of intense debate.

usr: 2
This is interesting!