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The next major COVID disaster may be here



w ^The surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in India continues to have a devastating impact on the country, and astute epidemiologists are trying to predict where the new coronavirus will strike.

Some experts have a vigilant look at another huge developing country like India, which suffers from huge health gaps and uneven access to vaccines: Nigeria.

It is the most populous country in West Africa, with a population of 200 million, making it the seventh most populous country in the world.

Ngozi Erondui, a senior researcher at the Centre for Global Health Security in Chatham House, UK, told The Daily Beast: “Nigeria is actually quite fragile.” “It has many similarities with India.”

The world is not powerless to stop COVID from destroying Nigeria like India. A more equitable distribution of vaccines across borders can create a firewall to prevent a surge in cases in Nigeria and other less developed countries.

But this will require the richer countries in the world to share life-saving resources with poorer neighboring countries. Moreover, if India’s tragic example proves everything, it is that the world’s “urgent need” of vaccines is not eager to help the “urgent needs” of distant continents.

In other words, “Africa”

; ​​is not synonymous with “poverty”. The continent is vast and diverse. Its 54 countries have 1.2 billion people, ranging from large to small, from rich to poor, from strong to weak, and from democracy to authoritarianism.

Similarly, the pandemic experiences in African countries are also different. South Africa-one of the wealthiest countries on the African continent-was hit hard last summer and then hit again in January. Officials there have recorded more than 54,000 deaths.

This is 93 deaths per 100,000 people. This rate is far lower than the 175 deaths per 100,000 registered in the United States, but much higher than the global average (38 deaths per 100,000 people).

So far, many less-industrial African countries have managed to avoid a catastrophic surge in infections that has led to an increase in deaths in richer countries. A total of 580,000 Americans have died from COVID; only 1,600 Nigerians have died.

But this does not mean that COVID will not be launched in Nigeria and other African countries-it may just mean that it has not yet arrived there. Lawrence Gostin, a global health expert at Georgetown University, told The Daily Beast: “In the next few weeks and months, there will be a large number of COVID-19 fires around the world.” And I am most worried about Africa.”

Gostin added: “I think the crisis in India is a major indicator of the future situation of other low- and middle-income countries.”

Remember, India-despite its large urban population, limited public health measures and patchwork of medical care-was lucky until recently. As of March, this country with a population of 1.37 billion recorded only 160,000 fatal cases, and 11 deaths per 100,000 people.

Then in April, a new and more spreadable variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (called “B.1.617” by geneticists) spread across the country, leading to an increase in the number of cases and deaths. In just a few weeks, India has added nearly 50,000 deaths. The case fatality rate jumped to 15 per 100,000 people.

At the time of writing, the COVID surge in India is still continuing, but the trend is encouraging. The number of new cases and deaths every day is leveling off. Despite all the signs that thousands of Indians will die before the surge ends, at least the pandemic has not worsened.

But the new coronavirus is an opportunist. It looks for densely populated, unprotected people. It spreads from one person to another through aerosols, establishing a well-known laboratory in every body it infects. As long as it is active, every SARS-CoV-2 infection will mutate once every two weeks, looking for evolutionary pathways that may produce new and spreadable new variants.

The new variants can help the virus spread faster in the self-reinforcing cycle, only when strong social isolation requirements, vaccination, and survivor’s antibodies (or more likely a combination of the three) cut off its route of transmission. The virus is over. The more difficult the distance from society and the lower the vaccine intake, the pathogen must continue to operate for a longer period of time.

It is no accident that SARS-CoV-2 has flourished in India this month. Popular religious festivals attract uncovered crowds. At the same time, the vaccination work in India is very bad. The country only vaccinates 3% of the population, while the proportion in the United States is more than 30%. The global average for full vaccination is slightly higher than 3%.

From an epidemiological point of view, Nigeria has a large population, a large urban population, and a poor health and medical system, but in some respects it is worse. India has at least some domestic vaccine manufacturers, while Nigeria does not. It must import all doses.

This helps explain why the country has only partially vaccinated 1% of the population, while almost no one has been fully vaccinated. The Lagos government hopes to obtain 84 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson in the coming weeks.

But this is enough to completely vaccinate one in five Nigerians. Vaccine three-quarters of the population (possibly up to 2022) (experts say this ratio may lead to “herd immunity” that prevents most transmission routes).

In order to help Nigeria and other unprotected countries, the rich countries of the world should stop hoarding excessive drugs. Of course, more jabs are not a panacea, and even countries with a large number of vaccines may be difficult to manage. However, although logistics and hesitation among prudent citizens may slow the rate of vaccination, insufficient doses will certainly slow the rate of vaccination.

“The only way to know with certainty how Nigeria will manage the vaccine is to ship it. Once they provide more doses, we can see how things such as distribution and hesitation affect their vaccination campaign.

This failed Nigeria and many countries.

Chatham House Global Health Security Center Ngozi Erondui.

Global supply is not the biggest problem. Only in this country with multiple competing vaccine manufacturers, in the United States alone, there are more than 60 million unused doses in stock, even if more vials arrive from the factory, and the absorption rate of vaccines is declining, especially It’s in the Republican Party.

It wasn’t until a few weeks after India’s continuing COVID surge that President Joe Biden’s government promised to ship some of its additional vaccines to the country. The spare needles from AstraZeneca are not even authorized for use in the United States. For Americans, these doses are not just redundant, they are useless.

What’s particularly shocking about the delay in releasing excess vaccines is that health officials anticipated the problem a year ago. Last spring, the United Nations World Health Organization and several international public-private partners jointly formulated the COVID-19 vaccine global visit plan, namely COVAX.

The idea is to let rich countries buy vaccines for poor countries. COVAX’s goal is to deliver 100 million doses by March. It actually delivered less than 40 million. Elondu said: “This has caused Nigeria and many countries to fail.”

The United States is part of the problem. The Trump administration refused to sign COVAX, a move that reflected its narrow “America First” concept. The Trump White House either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care-vaccinating poor countries can also help protect rich countries. After all, the virus does not respect national borders.

The Biden White House reversed the decision in February. The US government has pledged to provide 4 billion US dollars in cash, making the United States the largest financial contributor to COVAX, although this is overdue. At the same time, Biden expressed support for a controversial World Trade Organization proposal to suspend patent protection for the COVID vaccine, theoretically allowing any manufacturer in any country to produce the dose.

However, experts are divided on whether the suspension of the patent will result in more doses reaching the countries where the patent is needed. At the same time, many wealthy countries have failed to fulfill their COVAX promises because the new coronavirus has targeted one unprotected population after another, thus delaying it.

The time for Nigeria’s infection is ripe. However, this West African country does not have to suffer the same fate as India. Vaccines can be provided. There are mechanisms to provide it to the countries that need it most. In countries with sufficient resources, what is lacking is a sense of urgency, and it seems that they don’t understand the importance of sharing it.


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