This is a monthly summary of the most stories that I think are important in the public health field. I hope that it will help you stay informed about the latest and most important public health issues.
Kenya to Receive Over 4 Million Covid-19 Vaccines
In what is great news for developing countries, the UN backed vaccine program will start in the coming weeks. East African countries are amongst the listed developing countries that will receive the vaccines.
Countries will receive doses in proportion to population size.
The most will go to India (97.2 million), followed by Pakistan (17.2 million), Nigeria (16 million), Indonesia (13.7 million), Bangladesh (12.8 million), Brazil (10.6 million), Kenya (4.2 million), Sudan (3.4 million) Yemen (2.3 million) and Syria (1.02 million).
The first plan for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries was unveiled on Wednesday by the UN-backed COVAX facility.
According to the plan, by mid-year 3.3% of the populations of 145 participating countries will get doses.
“The first indicative distribution covers 240 million doses of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine license to the Serum Institute of India,” said Seth Berkley, the chief executive officer of Gavi, the vaccine alliance that seeks to increase access to immunization in developing countries.
“It also covers 96 million doses of the same vaccine secured under an advanced purchase agreement signed directly between GAVI and AstraZeneca in December,” said Berkley.
“It also covers 1.2 million shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine,” he added.((Covax Vaccines: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/health/covax-posts-plan-for-vaccine-supply-to-poor-nations/2133053))
This is coming at a time when the Ministry of Health has indicated that it has ordered over 10 billion worth of vaccines to 20% of the population.
Nonetheless, some progress has been made. Kenya is due to get 24 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine through the joint WHO-GAVI COVAX facility, and a further 12 million through bilateral engagements. It also stands to receive 10.8 million of the 270 million doses the African Union (AU) acquired through its African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), though this will be slowed by the need for WHO approval. (A further 400 million doses has been received by the AU but the structure for allocating them between countries has not yet been determined.)(( African Arguments: https://africanarguments.org/2021/02/how-prepared-is-kenya-to-roll-out-covid-19-vaccines/))
Kenya Airways has already converted their passenger planes to transport the Covid-19 vaccines.
Current Studies Show Covid-19 Vaccines are Safe for the Public
As a kid, getting shot up with needles was pretty much a rite of passage, whether it was getting your standard tetanus, polio, and DPT shots, or the yearly flu shot. So why is the general public fearful of Covid-19 vaccinations?
The biggest concern with the Covid-19 vaccines has been the quick turn around and the new technology being used. Other than a few cases, the consensus is that the current Covid-19 vaccines are safe.
In my view, vaccines are seen as the way out of the pandemic, and all of the evidence so far suggests they are safe and effective.
Side effects do occur, but overwhelmingly, are mild. They are not the disease itself, but the body’s response to the vaccine. They usually get better within a couple of days, says the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can happen but are very rare – between one and two cases per 100,000 doses administered, experts estimate. The MHRA received received 101 allergy-related reports.
The ones received by the agency – affecting around three in every 1,000 people vaccinated – so far reveal no unexpected serious reactions, which experts say should help reassure anyone who may be anxious about getting immunised. There is strong evidence that the vaccines will save lives and prevent severe illness.
Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed, a doctor who has been assessing vaccine safety on behalf of the UK, said: “It is extremely safe. The benefits far outweigh the risks. I say that to my family as well.”
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “Safety is our watchword. It is vital that people continue to get their jab when they get the invitation.”
Over 13 Million People in the UK Already Vaccinated for Covid-19
In what is turning out to be a well executed public health plan, Britain passed the 13 million jabs just this week. Of this over 500,000 have already received their second jab. On the other side of the Atlantic, the President Biden has promised over 300 million jabs by end of July.
As Public Health Experts in Kenya, we hope that we are able to achieve these kind of results this year.
President Biden said Thursday that his administration had finalized deals for another 200 million doses of the two coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States, giving the country enough vaccine by the end of July to cover every American adult.
Can You Get Reinfected by the New Covid-19 Strains?
The new covid-19 strain might be more infectious than the original one; can this be true? Can one become reinfected with the new strains even after vaccination?
This new study in the preprint server medRXiv attempts to prove that reinfection is possible. Please note that it’s not peer reviewed.
Being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 is not a foolproof shield against reinfection, a small preliminary study warns.
The finding stems from tracking nearly 3,250 young U.S. Marine recruits between May and October. Of those, 189 had previously tested positive for the SAR-CoV-2 virus. During the six-week study itself, 10% of those who had tested positive got reinfected.
“You don’t have a get-out-of-jail-free card just because you have antibodies from a previous infection,” said study author Dr. Stuart Sealfon.
This article from the Atlantic discusses the concept of herd immunity especially in Brazil. It got me to ask real questions on the concept. Take some time and listen to the podcast. The author suggests that herd mentality is essential in combating the virus.
What do you think?
with 75 percent of the population infected at one point and not seeing a big outbreak in their winter, the assumption was those things taken together meant that they were through the worst of it. [But] then, in the last month, they have been overwhelmed once again, and even worse than before. The public-health officials there say it came on even faster than before—and again, in the very same city.
Wells: So the population that went through this horrific thing nine months ago is going through it again, even though most people got the virus the first time?
Alert on Toxic Food in Baby Food and Cheerios
In what should not come as a surprise for healthy food advocates, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found high levels of glyphosate in popular children’s cereals like Cheerios and Natural Food Products.
A new round of tests from the Environmental Working Group found traces of the weed-killer glyphosate in 6 types of Cheerios, 14 Nature Valley products, and Fiber One’s oatmeal raisin soft-baked cookies.
Major food companies like General Mills continue to sell popular children’s breakfast cereals and other foods contaminated with troubling levels of glyphosate, the cancer-causing ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. The weedkiller, produced by Bayer-Monsanto, was detected in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled in a new round of testing commissioned by the Environmental Working Group. All but four products contained levels of glyphosate higher than what EWG scientists consider protective for children’s health with a sufficient margin of safety.
The new tests confirm and amplify EWG’s findings from tests in July and October of last year, with levels of glyphosate consistently above EWG’s children’s health benchmark. The two highest levels of glyphosate were found in Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, with 833 parts per billion, or ppb, and Cheerios, with 729 ppb. The EWG children’s health benchmark is 160 ppb.
((Environmental Working Group : https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/monsanto-weedkiller-still-contaminates-foods-marketed-to-children/))