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Published: 11:04, August 13, 2021 | Updated: 22:56, August 13, 2021
South Africa's vaccine headache switches to demand from supply
By Agencies
Published:11:04, August 13, 2021 Updated:22:56, August 13, 2021 By Agencies

People queue at the Vaccination Center of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Center in Cape Town, South Africa on Aug 4, 2021. (NARDUS ENGELBRECHT / AP)

ABUJA / SKOPJE / ADDIS ABABA / RABAT / STOCKHOLM / HAVANA / MEXICO CITY / DUBLIN / MONTEVIDEO / OTTAWA / SAO PAULO / BUENOS AIRES / BERLIN / OSLO / CAPE TOWN / MOSCOW / TRIPOLI / WINDHOEK - South Africa’s biggest challenge to meeting a target of vaccinating two-thirds of the adult population has shifted from a shortage of supply to a lack of demand.

“We are sitting in a situation where we don’t have a vaccine constraint, at least for the next two months,” Nicholas Crisp, a deputy director-general in the Department of Health, said in an online briefing on Friday. “Now we need vaccine demand.”

Crisp said registrations for vaccines had tapered off over the last two weeks, and urged people to sign up as South Africa aims to inoculate 28 million or 70 percent of adults by the end of December.

South Africa’s health minister said the country of 60 million had fully vaccinated only around 4 million people as a wave of infections driven by the more infectious Delta variant strains over-burdened hospitals and health workers

The country of 60 million had fully vaccinated only around 4 million people as a wave of infections driven by the more infectious Delta variant strains over-burdened hospitals and health workers, South Africa's Health Minister Joe Phaahla said.

Africa’s most industrialized nation opened its rollout of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson doses to those between 35 and 49 years old last month, yet interest from that age group has not been sustained, Crisp said. An improvement has been seen in the over-60s, he said, and the number of people fully vaccinated is set to pass 4 million, out of an adult population of about 40 million.

One issue of concern in South Africa is a particular reluctance to be vaccinated among men, Crisp said. Almost 60 percent of those to have received a dose to date have been women.

Meanwhile on Friday, Phaahla said he would not recommend a relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown measures despite a downward trend in infections.

“Our situation therefore remains precarious ... We will be recommending remaining at Level 3,” Joe Phaahla told a media briefing before putting his proposals to the cabinet.

In a bid to stimulate the economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa last month eased restrictions to an adjusted “Level 3” in a five-level system, as infections declined. It means people can travel between provinces for leisure, and retail outlets may sell alcohol from Monday to Thursday.

Phaahla said the national positivity rate, which gives an indication of how widespread infections are, had declined from a high of 35 percent in mid-July to an average over the last seven days of 19-20 percent.

However, he noted that the World Health Organization recommends the rate should be down to 5 percent before relaxations are considered.

Africa

Some 53 African countries have acquired about 114 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said in the latest weekly briefing on Thursday.

The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the African Union, said around 1.75 percent of Africa's population have been fully vaccinated.

Some 77.3 million of the total 114 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far, the Africa CDC said.

A health worker administers an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a health center in Buenos Aires on July 27, 2021. (VICTOR R. CAIVANO / AP)

Argentina

Argentina registered 13,369 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the national count to 5,066,253, the country's health ministry said.

The ministry said 182 more deaths were reported, bringing the national death toll to 108,569.

Austria

Austria reported the most daily infections since May as the pandemic expands again, prompting its government to consider mandating masks in all indoor areas.

The European nation of almost 9 million added 1,005 cases on Friday, the most in three months, lifting the national 7-day incidence rate to 56.

Brazil

Brazil has registered 1,148 more COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising its national death toll to 566,896, the health ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said that the total caseload rose to 20,285,067 after 39,982 new cases were detected.

Canada

Canada is suffering a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as variants of the virus continue to spread in the country, said Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on Thursday.

Tam told a press conference that the country's national case count has taken a turn for the worse since late July.

Canada on Thursday reported 2,138 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the cumulative total to 1,447,439 cases, including 26,692 deaths, according to CTV.

Ontario, the most populous province of Canada, logged 513 new cases on Thursday, the first time over 500 cases since mid-June. The last time Ontario reported more than 500 cases of COVID-19 in a single day was on June 13, when 530 cases were identified.

Alberta province logged 550 new cases and British Columbia province confirmed 513 new infections.

"We have been closely monitoring increases in COVID-19 activity across the country. The latest national surveillance data indicate that a fourth wave is underway in Canada and that cases are plotting along a strong resurgence trajectory," she said.

Car cross the border into Canada, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Aug. 9, 2021. American citizens and permanent residents are now allowed to enter Canada for non-essential purposes if they can provide proof that they've been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days. (EDUARDO LIMA / THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP)

Separately, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning a snap election for Sept 20 to seek voter approval for the government's costly plans to combat COVID-19, four sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Trudeau is set to make the announcement on Sunday, said the sources, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. Trudeau aides have said for months that the ruling Liberals would push for a vote before end-2021, two years ahead of schedule.

Trudeau only has a minority government and relies on other parties to push through legislation. In recent months he has complained about what he calls opposition obstruction.

Cuba

Cuba registered on Thursday 8,194 new COVID-19 infections and 73 more deaths in the last day, for a total of 491,904 cases and 3,757 deaths.

Director of hygiene and epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health Francisco Duran said the figures are a direct result of the high transmission of the virus on the island.

According to data from health authorities, there were 95,515 people in hospitals, isolation centers and homes in the country, including suspected and active COVID-19 patients.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 898 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 287,184 as of Thursday evening, the country's health ministry said.

Two more COVID-19 deaths were reported, bringing the national death toll to 4,452, the ministry said.

Germany

The German government has designated the United States, Turkey, and Israel as high-risk countries, triggering a minimum five-day quarantine requirement for those who are unvaccinated, the FUNKE media group reported on Friday, citing government sources.

Montenegro and Vietnam are also affected by the upgrade, while Portugal has been downgraded and is no longer a high-risk area, with the exception of Lisbon and the Algarve, Funke reported.

The upgrade will take effect on Sunday, except in the case of Turkey when it will come into force on Tuesday night given the large number of people in Germany with a Turkish background, Funke reported, citing government sources.

Travelers from high-risk countries must go into quarantine for ten days unless they can show proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19. Self-isolation can be ended after five days at the earliest with a negative test.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 5,578 to 3,810,641, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. The reported death toll rose by 19 to 91,853, the tally showed.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 205.49 million while the global death toll topped 4.33 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

A customer wearing a face mask is checked at the entrance of a pub before getting indoor services in Dublin, Ireland, on July 26, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Ireland

The Irish Department of Health on Thursday reported another 1,903 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily figure since the current wave of infections hit the country in July.

Online registration for the COVID-19 vaccination of the children aged 12-15 in the country kicked off earlier in the day with an estimated 280,000 people falling into this age group expected to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.

At least 50,000 children have registered for the vaccination in the first day with the consent of their parents or guardians, according to figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE), a state agency responsible for the vaccination program.

Over three million people in Ireland have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, said Paul Reid, head of the HSE, at a weekly briefing held on Thursday, adding that 80 percent of adults in the country will be fully vaccinated by this weekend.

ALSO READ: IMF nations approve record US$650b to aid virus fight

Libya

Libya received its third batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"The third batch of 117,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines via COVAX Facility arrived at Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli," UNICEF said in a statement, adding that it was facilitating the procurement, arrival and delivery, which will "help speed up the national vaccination program".

"Libya is a self-financing participant in the COVAX Facility and already received the first shipment of 57,600 doses in April and second shipment of in May 117,600 doses," the statement reads.

As of Thursday, Libya has registered 276,739 infections and 3,835 deaths, according to the country's National Center for Disease Control.

A man smiles after getting his shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine during a vaccination drive at University Stadium in Mexico City on July 23, 2021. (FERNANDO LLANO / AP)

Mexico

Mexico on Thursday posted a record 24,975 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, bringing the total number of cases to 3,045,571, according to health ministry data.

The figure is the highest daily total since the pandemic began, excluding statistical blips that heath authorities said were caused by one-off adjustments to back data.

Mexico also reported 608 new fatalities on Thursday, bringing the overall death toll to 246,811.

Morocco

Morocco announced on Thursday 10,828 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally of infections in the North African country to 731,084.

The death toll rose to 10,711 with 104 new fatalities, while 1,895 people are in intensive care units.

Namibia

Namibia has recorded a downward trend in new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, deaths, and positivity ratio, President Hage Geingob said on Friday.

The positivity ratio has fallen from 28 percent to 15 percent, Geingob said, attributing the progress to government measures put in place.

He announced a relaxation on some measures, including raising the number of people allowed at public gatherings from 50 to 100; allowing gyms, nightclubs, and casinos to operate at half capacity; and the resumption of contact sports without spectators.

Other measures will remain in force, including a 10 pm to 4 am curfew and the sales of alcohol between 9 am and 6 pm. 

Namibia now has 122,097 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a national recovery rate of 91 percent and case fatality rate of 2.7 percent.

Nigeria

Nigeria recorded on Wednesday one death and 790 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily figure recorded in the country in about six months, according to official data released on early Thursday.

This brings the total number of the caseload in Africa's most populous country to 179,908 and the fatality toll to 2,195, according to the data from the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).

The new cases on Wednesday were recorded in 13 states across the country, including the federal capital territory, the NCDC said in the daily update on Thursday.

Nigeria has been grappling with the more deadly Delta strain of the Coronavirus discovered in the country since early July.

A man receives a dose of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination campaign at the Boris Trajkovski Arena in Skopje on May 6, 2021. (ROBERT ATANASOVSKI / AFP)

North Macedonia

North Macedonia has administered more than one million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the country's Health Ministry said Thursday.

The Health Ministry said in a press release that the total number of vaccine doses administered so far in the country had reached 1,016,700 on Wednesday, including 454,700 second doses.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported 500 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 159,269, with 150,613 recoveries and 5,521 fatalities.

The government has decided to introduce a mandatory vaccination certificate starting from Aug 16 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Norway

Norway's government will end some restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it said on Friday, but stopped short of announcing a full reopening of the economy.

While some measures will now be relaxed, allowing universities to proceed with in-person teaching for instance, other restrictions will remain until early September, Health Minister Bent Hoeie said.

Measures that will be kept in place to halt the spread of COVID-19 include bars and restaurants being limited to table service, limits of 20 people on gatherings in private homes, and restrictions on adult recreational sports.

Meanwhile, Norway will get access to one million additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks, allowing the country to speed up its immunization program, the government said.

"With this delivery, adults above the age of 18 will be able to complete their vaccination during the first two weeks of September," Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a statement.

The extra supply of vaccines comes from US drug maker Moderna via the European Union, with which Norway cooperates on coronavirus vaccine procurement.

Russia

Russia reported a record high 815 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours on Friday, but Moscow's mayor said hospitalizations from the disease in the capital had halved over the past six weeks.

Russia's daily reported COVID-19 infections have gradually dipped from a peak in July that authorities blamed on the infectious Delta variant and a slow vaccination rate. They stood at 22,277 on Friday, including 2,529 in Moscow.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said daily hospitalizations had halved in the city compared with late June and hospital bed occupancy was at its lowest since April.

As a result, he said in his blog, the city would no longer require 30 percent of staff at all businesses to work from home, although that was still encouraged.

The total number of cases recorded in Russia stood at 6,557,068 as of Friday, with 168,864 deaths recorded within a population of more than 144 million.

People wait for their turn to enter Stockholm's City Hall, known as venue for the Nobel Prize banquets and converted now into a COVID-19 vaccination center for a day on Feb 21, 2021 in the capital of Sweden, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP)

Sweden

The Swedish government is set to extend legislation allowing it to introduce restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced on Thursday.

"Sweden must be well-prepared in the event of a deteriorating situation or new outbreaks," Lofven said in a joint press conference with the Public Health Agency, adding that the spread of infection "is no longer at low levels."

The so-called "pandemic law" was introduced on Jan. 10 and was supposed to end on Sept 30. It is now expected to be extended to Jan 31, 2022.

Under the pandemic law, the government can limit opening times of bars and restaurants, as well as the number of people allowed at public events, in shops, and on long-distance bus and train journeys.

The prime minister's announcement was welcomed by the Public Health Agency. "We have seen that the situation can change quickly, which leads to more aggressive variants taking over," said the agency's Director-General Johan Carlson.

The government has also tasked the agency with analyzing the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks during autumn and winter.

ALSO READ: Biden's 'summer of joy' turns grim as Delta infections soar

A medic places two vials of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines (from left to right): Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, on a table before administering doses at a Clalit Health Services Medical Centre in east Jerusalem on Aug 10, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

United States

The US Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorizations for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to allow an additional dose for some immunocompromised individuals.

“The country has entered yet another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease,” said Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s acting director. “After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.”

While the US-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death in most people, booster shots are especially important for transplant patients and others with weak immune systems, who often don’t get adequate responses to their first vaccine course.

Immune compromised people compose about 3 percent of adults, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on a press call.

The FDA assessed information on the third dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, it said in a statement, adding that other fully vaccinated individuals do not need an additional vaccine dose right now.

The US is currently facing a surge of infections spawned by the more infectious delta variant, with more than 117,000 new cases diagnosed yesterday. The FDA’s action was designed to protect those people most likely to be harmed or die from an infection, even if they are already fully vaccinated.

Uruguay

Uruguay will surpass the goal of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its population against COVID-19 next week, Public Health Minister Daniel Salinas has said.

"Next week we will be crossing that goal of what's called herd immunity with 70 percent (fully vaccinated)," Salinas told local television on Wednesday night.

"We aim to reach 75 percent (of the population) with two doses," he said, warning that those without immunization "are more defenseless" against the Delta variant of novel coronavirus.

Salinas said the current pandemic situation is under "control and permanent alert," adding that 2.6 million Uruguayans have been vaccinated.

Currently 66 percent of the population has been inoculated with two doses and 73 percent with at least one, according to health authorities.

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