Category Archives: World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO calls Tanzania to fight Covid virus.

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At the same time Magufuli revealed he had secretly had a variety of items tested for the virus — of which a papaya, a quail and a goat apparently tested positive.

The head of the World Health Organization on Sunday appealed to Tanzania to take “robust action” against Covid-19 in the country, where the president has long played down the virus.

President John Magufuli has claimed coronavirus has been has fended off by prayer in Tanzania, and refused to take tough measures to curb its spread.

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But a recent spate of deaths attributed to pneumonia has struck both members of the public and government officials.

And Magufuli on Friday appeared to admit the coronavirus was circulating in his country after months of denial.

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WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a number of Tanzanians travelling to neighbouring countries and beyond have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This underscores the need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations in these countries and beyond,” he said in a statement.

Tedros said he had urged Tanzania in late January to take measures against the pandemic and to prepare for vaccinations.

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“Since then I have spoken with several authorities in Tanzania but WHO is yet to receive any information regarding what measures Tanzania is taking to respond to the pandemic.

– Papaya, quail and goat -“This situation remains very concerning. I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting COVID-19 cases and share data.

“I also call on Tanzania to implement the public health measures that we know work in breaking the chains of transmission, and to prepare for vaccination.”

The country last gave case figures in April 2020, reporting 509 infections.

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At the same time Magufuli revealed he had secretly had a variety of items tested for the virus — of which a papaya, a quail and a goat apparently tested positive.

On Wednesday, the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad, died after his opposition party admitted he had contracted coronavirus.

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The head of the civil service, John Kijazi, also died Wednesday.

The cause of death has not been revealed. But Magufuli brought up Covid-19 at his funeral.

“When this respiratory disease erupted last year, we won because we put God first and took other measures. I’m sure we will win again if we do so this time around,” he said.

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However dissent is mounting within the country to the government’s position on the pandemic.

On Saturday, the Tanzania Law Society became the first professional body to call on the government to openly recognise the virus and take adequate measures.

On Sunday, Magufuli revealed that some of his aides and family members had contracted Covid but recovered, and offered some lukewarm support for the use of masks.

“The government has not banned use of masks but some of these are not safe at all… let’s be careful,” he said after a service in a Dar es Salaam church.

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“Let us all depend on God as we also take other preventive measures. I put God first and that is why I do not wear a mask.”

The health ministry in a statement Sunday called on citizens to “continue to believe in God” and also respect preventive measures, including mask-wearing.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: WHO gives greenlight on AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Some 145 participating economies are set to receive enough doses to immunise 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021.

The World Health Organization gave emergency use approval to AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines on Monday, allowing distribution to some of the world’s poorest countries to begin.

“The WHO today listed two versions of the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through Covax,” a WHO statement said, referring to the programme aimed at equitable distribution of doses.

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The two versions given the seal of approval are being produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and in South Korea.

“Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the Covax facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said Dr Mariangela Simao, the WHO assistant-director general for access to medicines.

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“But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere and facilitate global access. To do that, we need two things — a scale-up of manufacturing capacity, and developers’ early submission of their vaccines for WHO review.”

The UN health agency’s emergency use listing procedure assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for vaccines in the Covax facility.

WHO approval also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer Covid-19 vaccines.

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The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is the only other one to have been given the WHO green light so far.

AstraZeneca vaccines from India and South Korea made up almost all of the doses in the Covax facility’s first wave of distribution.

The distribution list issued on February 3 broke down the programme’s initial 337.2 million doses. First deliveries are expected in late February.

Some 145 participating economies are set to receive enough doses to immunise 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021.

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The distribution list includes 240 million AstraZeneca doses from the SII; 96 million AZ doses being produced in South Korea; and 1.2 million Pfizer doses.

Both vaccines require two injected doses.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: WHO discuss AstraZeneca vaccine.

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The four-and-a-half-hour meeting was due to wrap up with a presentation of the remaining draft recommendations.

The World Health Organization’s vaccine experts were deciding Monday on their usage recommendations for the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine — including for older adults.

The 15-member Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) was spending the day in a virtual extraordinary meeting discussing the two-shot vaccine.

The WHO said the recommendations on who it should and should not be used for would be made public later this week.

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The regulatory authorities in several European nations have not authorised the vaccine for use among the over-65s — by far the most vulnerable age group for serious Covid-19 disease.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. – President Donald Trump said May 29, 2020, he was breaking off US ties with the World Health Organization, which he says failed to do enough to combat the initial spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

According to the SAGE meeting’s agenda, “assessment of the critical evidence, including data and draft recommendations related to vaccine use in older adults” will form a key part of Monday’s talks.

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The meeting will also discuss recent evidence on new coronavirus variants of concern.

South Africa said Sunday it would suspend the start of its Covid-19 vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab after a study showed the drug failed to prevent mild and moderate cases of the virus variant that has appeared in the country.

AstraZeneca to present findings
During Monday’s SAGE meeting, AstraZeneca was due to make a 25-minute presentation about the safety and efficacy data on the jab, also known as AZD1222, plus results from the three phases of human testing, from the first jabs to mass trials.

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The UK-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant was also to discuss risk management plans and other implementation considerations, before facing questions.

The meeting was also to get an outline of ongoing and planned studies.

The SAGE working group was then to present evidence including data and draft recommendations relating to the vaccine’s use in older adults.

The four-and-a-half-hour meeting was due to wrap up with a presentation of the remaining draft recommendations.

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In a separate process, the UN health agency is also set to decide on February 15 whether to give the vaccine emergency use listing for the versions produced in India and South Korea.

If granted, doses from those sites could start to be distributed to some of the world’s poorest countries via Covax, the global vaccine procurement and distribution pool.

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Many low-income countries are relying entirely on the AstraZeneca jab to start immunising their most vulnerable populations, but cannot receive their first doses until the WHO grants emergency authorisation.

SAGE advice
SAGE advises the WHO on overall global policies and strategies, ranging from vaccines and technology, research and development, to delivery of immunisation and its links with other health interventions.

Chaired by Mexican doctor Alejandro Cravioto, the group is comprised of 15 experts from around the world representing a broad range of expertise.

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SAGE has already issued advice on the usage of the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines.

So far, the WHO has only given emergency use listing to the Pfizer jab, though several other manufacturers have started the evaluation process, including AstraZeneca and Moderna.

Covax is almost entirely dependent on the AstraZeneca jab in its first wave of distribution.

Some 145 countries are set to receive 337.2 million doses — enough to immunise 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021. Of those, 336 million are AstraZeneca vials.

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The first Covax deliveries are expected to take place in late February.

However, the AstraZeneca vaccines cannot start being shipped until the WHO signs them off.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: WHO team visits Wuhan market

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The experts did not take any questions and the sprawling market remains boarded up.

A team of WHO experts investigating the origins of Covid-19 visited a market in Wuhan on Sunday where one of the first reported clusters of infections emerged over a year ago.

Members of the group arrived at Huanan seafood market — which has been sealed since January last year — driving into its barricaded premises as guards quickly blocked others from entering, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

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The mission, delayed by China and weighed down by political baggage, has a remit to explore how the virus jumped from animal to human.

But with the fieldwork element of a trip in its early stages, World Health Organization officials have already downplayed expectations of finding the source of a virus which has killed more than two million people and devastated the global economy.

On Sunday, the WHO team arrived at the Huanan market as part of a long-planned trip now closely monitored by the Chinese authorities.

Security staff told reporters outside to leave and shook a tall ladder on which a photographer was sitting for a better view.

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Earlier this week, state media outlet Global Times published a report downplaying the importance of Huanan as an early epicenter of the virus, claiming “subsequent investigations” have suggested the market was not the source of the outbreak.

Chinese authorities have relentlessly pushed a positive narrative of heroism and decisive, swift action in their fight against the coronavirus that has spurred an economic recovery and kept deaths down to 4,636.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: WHO team arrives Wuhan

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Beijing is anxious to stamp out local clusters ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year festival when hundreds of millions of people will be on the move across the country.

A team of experts from the World Health Organization arrived in Wuhan Thursday to probe the origins of the coronavirus more than a year after it emerged, although two members were barred from boarding a flight in Singapore after testing positive for virus antibodies.

The international team of 13 scientists landed for their much-delayed mission, met by Chinese officials in hazmat suits and given throat swabs on arrival, and were whisked to a hotel where they must complete a two-week quarantine before starting their work.

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The virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has since billowed out across the world killing nearly two million people so far, infecting tens of millions and eviscerating the global economy.

The WHO says establishing the pathway of the virus from animals to humans is essential to preventing future outbreaks.

But despite painstaking months of negotiations over their remit, the team was blocked from arriving last week — a sign of the political sensitivity of a virus origin story muddied by recrimination between nations, conjecture and denials.

And the UN health body said Thursday that while most the team had arrived, two members were not allowed to board the flight from Singapore to Wuhan after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies — the latest twist in a long journey to China for the experts.

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The WHO said in a tweet that all members of the team had “multiple negative PCR and antibody tests for COVID-19 in their home countries prior to traveling.”

The trip comes as China moves to snuff out fresh clusters of the virus.

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More than 20 million people are under lockdown in the north of China and one province has declared an emergency, as the country reported its first death from Covid-19 in eight months.

China had largely brought the pandemic under control through strict lockdowns and mass testing, hailing its economic rebound as an indication of strong leadership by the Communist authorities.

But another 138 infections were reported by the National Health Commission on Thursday — the highest single-day tally since March last year.

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Clusters are still small compared with many countries contending with rampant infections and record numbers of deaths.

But the first Chinese virus fatality in several months — a woman with underlying conditions in northern Hebei province — seeded alarm across China.

The hashtag “New virus death in Hebei” quickly ratcheted up 270 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Thursday.

“I haven’t seen the words ‘virus death’ in so long, it’s a bit shocking! I hope the epidemic can pass soon,” one user wrote.

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The last death reported in mainland China was in May last year, with the official death toll now standing at 4,635.

As infections have spread, northeastern Heilongjiang declared an “emergency state” on Wednesday, telling its 37.5 million residents not to leave the province unless absolutely necessary.

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WHO arrival
China is braced for the scrutiny the expert team of WHO scientists will bring to its virus narrative.

Beijing has drip-fed the idea that the pandemic started outside of its borders, preferring to focus on its relatively swift control of the public health crisis.

The WHO has been at pains to cut the political baggage attached to their mission.

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Peter Ben Embarek, team lead, said the group would start with a mandatory hotel quarantine.

“And then after the two weeks, we would be able to move around and meet our Chinese counterparts in person and go to the different sites that we will want to visit,” he said.

He warned it “could be a very long journey before we get a full understanding of what happened”.

Beijing has argued that although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated.

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“I don’t think we will have clear answers after this initial mission, but we will be on the way,” Embarek added.

“The idea is to advance a number of studies that were already designed and decided upon some months ago to get us a better understanding of what happened,” he said.

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#Newsworthy