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Published: 10:52, August 16, 2021 | Updated: 23:44, August 16, 2021
Vaccine hesitancy rises among Mexico's youth as Delta spreads
By Agencies
Published:10:52, August 16, 2021 Updated:23:44, August 16, 2021 By Agencies

A woman receives her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 in Mexico City on August 10, 2021. (ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP)

TUNIS / LONDON / ADDIS ABABA / RABAT / HAVANA / SANTIAGO / TRIPOLI / WASHINGTON / CAIRO / BELGRADE / OTTAWA / BERLIN / SARAJEVO / MEXICO CITY - As the Delta variant of COVID-19 sweeps through Mexico's cities, more adults in their 30s and 40s are ending up in the hospital with polls showing vaccine hesitancy is rising in younger age groups.

At the height of the pandemic in January, 10 percent of people hospitalized for COVID-19 were aged between 18 and 39, according to the health ministry. Cases have now surged again to near-record levels and that percentage has tripled.

A late July survey by Consulta Mitofsky found 7.2 percent of people polled said they did not want the vaccine, up from 2.9 percent in early July.

A global study by Facebook and the University of Maryland from late July found as many as 11.3 percent of Mexicans would choose not to be vaccinated, still far lower than in the United States where almost a third of the population has yet to get a first shot.

About 40 percent of Mexico's 126 million people have so far received at least one vaccine dose, mainly older adults.

In Mexico City, home to many younger people, almost a quarter of those aged 30-49 have not turned up for their first shot months after becoming eligible. The government has only just begun to vaccinate people under 30.

"The majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 right now are under 52-years-old and the great majority are people who have not been vaccinated," Mexico's vaccine tsar Hugo Lopez-Gatell told reporters in late July.

Further threatening to sideline Mexico's vaccine campaign are misinformation and conspiracy theories shared on social media and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram, falsely claiming vaccines cause dangerous side effects or contain spyware-like microchips.

Africa

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 7,257,094 as of Sunday afternoon, 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 stands at 182,929, while 6,327,912 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease.

Canada

Canada's new COVID-19 cases continue rising, bringing the cumulative total to 1,451,211 cases, including 26,700 deaths, as of Sunday afternoon, according to CTV.

At the national level, the Delta variant currently accounts for the majority of recently reported variant cases in the country.

Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, reported 511 new cases on Sunday.

Of the cases added, 350 were recorded in individuals who are unvaccinated and 67 were in those partially vaccinated. The remaining 94 cases were found in fully vaccinated people.

An elderly man receives a third booster dose of vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Santiago, on Aug 11, 2021. (CLAUDIO REYES / AFP)

Chile

Chile on Sunday reported 904 new cases and 49 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, for a total of 1,629,192 infections and 36,380 deaths.

According to Chile's Ministry of Health, COVID-19 cases have fallen by 10 percent in the last seven days and 29 percent in 14 days, while the national positivity rate remains below 2 percent.

The ministry said that 11 regions have reported a decrease in new cases over the last week, while 13 regions have seen a decrease in the last two weeks, reflecting a lower circulation of the virus in the country.

Cuba

Cuba’s public health minister said on Sunday efforts were underway to restart the country’s main oxygen factory which had broken down even as the death toll from COVID-19 on Saturday reached 98, equal to the pandemic record.

Minister Jose Angel Portal’s appearance on the state’s mid-day news broadcast came as a Delta-driven surge in coronavirus cases and deaths swamped some provincial health services.

Daily cases are averaging between 8,000 and 9,000 and fatalities at nearly 1 percent of cases, low by international standards but high for Cuba which last year had a death rate of 0.67 percent.

The country of 11.2 million residents has fully vaccinated three million with homegrown vaccines, with another two million expected to get a final shot before September.

Portal said a high-level commission was doing everything possible to make up for the oxygen shortage without indicating when the main plant would come back online.

Cuba on Sunday surpassed 4,000 total deaths from COVID-19, the Ministry of Public Health reported.

The Caribbean nation registered 8,636 new cases and 98 more deaths in the last 24 hours, for a total of 517,668 infections and 4,023 deaths.

Airport staff members unload the first batch of Chinese Sinovac vaccine raw materials from a plane at the Cairo International Airport in Cairo, Egypt, May 21, 2021. (SUI XIANKAI / XINHUA)

Egypt

Egypt received a new batch of about 1.7 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses through the global COVAX initiative, the health ministry said late on Friday.

The new shipment, the third of its kind, brings the total number of AstraZeneca shots received by Egypt via COVAX to about 4.3 million doses.

COVAX was established by the Geneva-based GAVI vaccine alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) for the equitable distribution of vaccines.

Egypt has also received shipments of the Sputnik, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson shots. It also recently began locally producing Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccines.

The government said in June it aims to vaccinate 40 percent of the 100 million population by the end of this year.

European Medicines Agency

Europe's drugs regulator said on Monday it was evaluating the use of Roche's arthritis drug, Actemra, in hospitalised adults with severe COVID-19, its latest review of a potential coronavirus treatment.

Tocilizumab, sold by Roche as Actemra and RoActemra, has shown promise in clinical trials in treating COVID-19, and was approved by US health regulators in June for emergency use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who needed oxygen. 

A large trial in February showed that tocilizumab cut the risk of death among patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19, shortened the time to recovery and reduced the need for mechanical ventilation. read more

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will carry out an accelerated assessment of the drug, including results from four large studies, it said in a statement. The outcome is expected in mid-October.

The EMA is also evaluating an application for an arthritis drug developed by Sweden's Sobi to treat COVID-19 in adults with pneumonia, and Eli Lilly's  rheumatoid arthritis drug Olumiant to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients receiving oxygen.

A pupil holds a coronavirus rapid test kit at the start of a lesson at an elementary school in Berlin on Aug 9, 2021. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP)

Germany

Germany's vaccine advisory committee updated its guidance on Monday to recommend that all children and adolescents aged 12-17 be given a COVID-19 vaccine, citing further safety data and increased risks posed by the more infectious Delta variant.

The committee, known as STIKO, had previously recommended that only children and adolescents with pre-existing conditions be given a coronavirus vaccine.

STIKO said its recommendation was based on new surveillance data from the vaccination program in the United States, as well as mathematical modelling showing children were at significantly higher risk of infection by the Delta variant.

"After careful evaluation of these new scientific observations and data, the STIKO has come to the conclusion that, according to the current state of knowledge, the advantages of vaccination outweigh the risk of very rare vaccination side effects," the committee said.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 207.24 million while the global death toll topped 4.36 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

ALSO READ: South Africa's vaccine headache switches to demand from supply

GSK, CureVac

GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac said a study on macaque monkeys showed their jointly-developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be "strongly improved" in protecting against the virus compared with CureVac's first attempt, which recorded only 48 percent efficacy in a final trial readout.

The companies said on Monday that a blood analysis of the animals showed that the next-generation vaccine known as CV2CoV triggered virus-fighting antibodies as well as immune cells that target infected cells faster and in greater quantities than CureVac's first-generation vaccine candidate.

The surge in antibodies and immune cells was similar to that observed after a real infection with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, they said.

Higher antibody blood counts were observed across virus variants of concern, including the Beta, Delta and Lambda lineages, they added.

The results have yet to be peer-reviewed for publication in a medical journal.

Initial testing of CV2CoV on humans would begin during the last quarter of this year, CureVac said.

Interpol

Interpol said it’s issued a worldwide alert over organized crime groups attempting to defraud governments with fake offers to sell COVID-19 vaccines.

The global law-enforcement agency said the warning follows some 60 cases in 40 countries around the world where individuals in health ministries and hospitals have received offers for vaccines approved for distribution in their country.

“Usually claiming to represent a vaccine manufacturer or a government agency facilitating the distribution of vaccines, the scammers are targeting both professional and personal email accounts of potential buyers, as well as making contact via phone,” Lyon, France-based Interpol said.

Libya

The Libyan National Center for Disease Control on Sunday reported 2,831 new COVID-19 cases.

The center said it received a total of 10,164 samples, of which 2,831 were tested positive, adding that 35 patients died.

A health worker checks a box of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a booster vaccination drive at the Zainoel Abidin hospital in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on Aug 9, 2021. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP)

Moderna

Moderna President Stephen Hoge called it “not surprising” that immunity to the coronavirus would weaken over time and said booster vaccine shots were inevitable. He compared it to boosters needed for the flu or tetanus.

“You need a booster to maintain high levels of protective immunity,” Hoge said on Fox’s Sunday Morning Futures. “I think we were all hopeful that we were going to be able to stop this thing with the initial couple of doses, and it looks like the virus is going to fight back and require booster doses more broadly - certainly by this fall.”

Moderna, which produces a two-dose mRNA vaccine, is one of three companies granted emergency use authorization by the US for their vaccines.

Morocco

Morocco announced on Sunday 7,380 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally of infections in the North African country to 759,456.

The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 in Morocco increased by 9,272 to 667,230. The death toll rose to 11,017 with 84 new fatalities, while 2,350 people are in intensive care units.

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 reimposed restrictions on access to cafes, restaurants and public events in a bid to subdue a fresh spike in COVID-19 infections and nudge citizens to get vaccinated, prompting public anger and protests.

From Monday, those who want to go to restaurants, concerts or any public events will have to show a certificate of at least one COVID-19 vaccination or of recovery from the disease within the past 45 days.

Only open-air parts of restaurants and cafes will be open and customer numbers will be limited to 30, the government said, adding that owners would have to provide security guards to check compliance with the measures.

The government has also introduced hefty fines for those who disobey the measures, ranging from 250 euros for individuals to up to 30,000 euros for legal entities depending their size.

The restrictions follow a sudden rise in the number of coronavirus cases after previous curbs were eased in the small Balkan republic, with 3,497 new infections reported over the past week and 807 on Sunday alone, with 10 recorded deaths.

Health Minister Venko Filipce said only 10 percent of newly infected people had been vaccinated. A little over 1 million of Macedonia’s 2 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine.

Serbia

The Serbian health authorities authorized a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines for people with compromised immune systems, health workers and anyone vaccinated at least six months ago, country's labour minister said on Sunday.

The Balkan country is facing a surge in coronavirus infections, with an average of over 900 cases a day in the past week due to the highly contagious Delta variant. It so far vaccinated over 50 percent of its population of around 7 million.

In a live broadcast by the state RTS TV, Darija Kisic Tepavcevic, a doctor and Serbia's labour minister, said health authorities would start administering the third dose of vaccines to the immunocompromised from Tuesday.

"Citizens who received their shots at least six months ago may also request to receive the third dose," said Kisic Tepavcevic.

She did not specify which vaccine would be used for the third dose.

Serbia is currently using COVID-19 vaccines from four manufacturers; Pfizer/BioNtech, China's Sinopharm, AstraZeneca/Oxford and Russia's Sputnik V.

So far COVID-19 has killed 7,167 people in Serbia, while 732,044 have fallen ill.

Tunisians wait for their turn to receive a COVID-19 veccine at an inoculation center in Ariana governorate near the capital Tunis on Aug 8, 2021. (FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Tunisia

Tunisian second national open day for vaccination against COVID-19 kicked off on Sunday across the country's 24 provinces for citizens aged between 18 and 39.

According to the Ministry of Health, the goal of this campaign is to vaccinate one million people.

This initiative was organized by the Health Ministry in coordination with the Defense, Interior and Education Ministries, and in cooperation with several departments and components of the civil society.

A total of 405 vaccination centers, distributed throughout the country, were set up exclusively for this open day.

As of 2:00 pm, a total of 258,330 people have been vaccinated, said the Health Ministry in a statement.

People queue to receive a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination center set up in a bus parked outside Premier League club Newcastle United's St James's Park football stadium in Newcastle, northeast England on Aug 15, 2021. (LINDSEY PARNABY / AFP)

UK

The UK's health regulator said on Monday COVID-19 vaccines did not raise the risk of miscarriage, and that it had not found any link between the shots and changes to menstrual periods.

"There is no pattern from the reports to suggest that any of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, or any reactions to these vaccines, increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth," the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement.

The MHRA's findings are in line with a similar review from Europe earlier this month, which showed no causal link between COVID-19 vaccines and menstrual disorders.

In another development, former British prime minister Gordon Brown said that US, British and Italian leaders must hold an emergency summit before the UN General Assembly to end vaccine inequality and send more shots to Africa and other low-income nations.

Brown, prime minister between 2007 and 2010, has been leading a push for richer countries to share more of the cost of vaccinating people in developing countries, many of which have low inoculation rates and rising cases.

He appealed to US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, chair of the Group of 20 wealthy nations, to hold the summit before September when world leaders will take part in the UN's General Assembly.

He called for the leaders to end the "stranglehold" on vaccines of rich nations with excess supply, and for them to help Africa and other low-income countries with finance and logistics.

"Their leadership can ensure finance to build African manufacturing capacity for the longer term and unblock the barriers to African purchases of vaccines now and over the next year," Brown said in a statement on Monday.

"Only intervention at the highest level by Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and the current chair of the G20, Mario Draghi, at a global vaccine summit in the next month can end this vaccine inequality that shames the world."

Separately, the UK is stepping up its efforts to encourage young people to come forward to take COVID-19 vaccines, with a host of companies offering rewards for those who get a jab.

The offers were announced the day after the government said all 16- and 17-year-olds in the UK would be offered the jab by next week. The nation is hoping to increase vaccination rates among younger Britons to significantly reduce transmission and protect the population from potential “long-COVID” symptoms.

The incentives, which include gift cards at holiday website lastminute.com and clothing vouchers for the Asda supermarket, will join those due to be offered by Deliveroo Plc and Uber Technologies Inc.

They are mainly designed to appeal to students and other young people. Data published by the Office for National Statistics this month showed the rate of vaccine hesitancy for those aged 18 to 21 was 5 percent, rising to 11 percent among those aged 16 and 17.

ALSO READ: All 16-, 17-year-olds in England to be offered first vaccine dose

Anthony Fauci, US President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, responds to questions by Senator Rand Paul during the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 20, 2021. (J SCOTT APPLEWHITE / POOL / AFP)

United States

Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the US will be “absolutely prepared” to distribute a third shot of the coronavirus vaccine quickly to a wider population if needed.

He gave no timeline but said health officials are evaluating various groups “on a daily and weekly basis.”

“So if it turns out, as the data come in, we see we do need to give an additional dose to people in nursing homes, actually, or people who are elderly we will be absolutely prepared to do that very quickly,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The issue of extra, or booster, shots has become more pressing, amid questions about “breakthrough” infections among the fully vaccinated, particularly with the more contagious Delta variant now prevalent in the US, and whether the shots’ efficacy declines over time. 

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a third shot for people with compromised immune systems.

Separately, the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States hit a record high of just over 1,900 on Saturday, as hospitals across the South were stretched to capacity fighting outbreaks caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The Delta variant, which is rapidly spreading among mostly the unvaccinated portion of the US population, has caused hospitalizations to spike in recent weeks, driving up the number of pediatric hospitalizations to 1,902 on Saturday, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Children currently make up about 2.4 percent of the nation's COVID-19 hospitalizations. Kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from the new, highly transmissible variant.

The numbers of newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 18-29, 30-39 and 40-49 also hit record highs this week, according to data from the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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