Category: COVID-19
Politicizing COVID-19 origin tracing gives free rein to ‘political virus’: Chinese embassy in U.S.
worker | May 27, 2021 | 8:02 pm | China, COVID-19 | No comments

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-05-27/China-denounces-political-hype-on-the-origin-tracing-of-COVID-19-10Ba4HkaAEM/index.html

China denounces U.S. ‘political hype’ on origin tracing of COVID-19
Updated 20:16, 27-May-2021
CGTN
00:34

China on Thursday rejected new attempts to politicize the origins of COVID-19, repeating that experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) had already concluded that a “lab leak” was “extremely unlikely.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian made the remarks after U.S. President Biden ordered a probe into COVID-19 origins on Wednesday.

Zhao reiterated China’s support for a comprehensive, transparent and evidence-based international investigation and stressed that China’s open and transparent stance has been positively appraised by international experts.

The spokesperson slammed the U.S. for opting for politicizing the issue instead of focusing on a scientific approach to tracing COVID-19 origins.

“It shows America’s disrespect to science and irresponsibility towards their people’s life and safety,” Zhao said, noting Washington’s questionable record in fighting the outbreak on its territory.

Zhao said that the U.S. ranks first globally in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities, which have reached around 33 million and 600,000 respectively.

He also urged the U.S. to accept a WHO-led international investigation into its Fort Detrick biolab and over 200 similar facilities it operates around the world.

The motive and purposes of Washington’s probe are clear, said Zhao, who viewed it as another attempt to disrupt and contain China.

“We hope the U.S. could cooperate with the WHO to conduct a comprehensive, transparent and evidence-based investigation to respond to concerns from the international community and to contribute to the handling of public health emergencies in the future,” said the spokesperson.

Read more:

China shared data with WHO experts, report based on facts: Chinese expert

00:32

The Chinese Embassy in the United States on Wednesday also refuted the U.S. attempt to politicize the issue, saying the move gives free rein to the “political virus” and seriously hamper international cooperation on the pandemic.

“On the origin tracing of COVID-19, we have been calling for international cooperation on the basis of respecting facts and science, with a view to better coping with unexpected epidemics in the future,” said the spokesperson for the embassy in a statement.

“Out of a sense of responsibility towards the health of mankind, we support a comprehensive study of all early cases of COVID-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world,” said the spokesperson.

“Such study and investigation shall be full, transparent and evidence-based, and shall get to the bottom to make everything clear,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson noted that some people lately have played the old trick of politically hyping the origin tracing of COVID-19 in the world. Smear campaigns and blame shifting are making a comeback, and the conspiracy theory of a “lab leak” is resurfacing.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, some political forces have been fixated on political manipulation and blame game, while ignoring their people’s urgent need to fight the pandemic and the international demand for cooperation on this front, which has caused a tragic loss of many lives, the spokesperson said.

“The lesson from last year is still fresh in our memory. While the pandemic is still causing great damage in today’s world and the international community is expecting greater coordination among countries, some people are turning to their old playbook,” said the spokesperson.

“We cannot but wonder, have they already put that bitter lesson behind them so soon? Or do they want to see a replay of tragedies? With such irresponsible behaviors, how can they face up to their own people? How can they face up to the international community? And how can they face up to human conscience?” the spokesperson said.

China blasts Wuhan lab-leak ‘conspiracy,’ urges probe of ALL early Covid-19 cases & ‘secretive bases’ worldwide
worker | May 27, 2021 | 7:56 pm | China, COVID-19, Joe Biden | No comments

https://www.rt.com/news/524916-china-probe-secretive-biolabs/

China blasts Wuhan lab-leak ‘conspiracy,’ urges probe of ALL early Covid-19 cases & ‘secretive bases’ worldwide

China blasts Wuhan lab-leak ‘conspiracy,’ urges probe of ALL early Covid-19 cases & ‘secretive bases’ worldwide
Beijing has responded to US President Joe Biden’s announcement of a probe into Covid-19 origins by denouncing the “lab-leak” hypothesis as a conspiracy theory and urging an investigation into secret US bio-labs around the world.

“Lately, some people have played the old trick of political hype on the origin tracing of [Covid-19] in the world. Smear campaign and blame shifting are making a comeback, and the conspiracy theory of ‘lab leak’ is resurfacing,” a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

READ MORE: Facebook says it will stop banning claims Covid-19 is man-made, citing ‘new facts and trends’

Without naming names, the spokesman said that “some political forces have been fixated on political manipulation and blame game, while ignoring their people’s urgent need to fight the pandemic and the international demand for cooperation on this front,” something that has “caused a tragic loss of many lives.”

China has been calling for international cooperation to trace the origins of Covid-19 “on the basis of respecting facts and science, with a view to better coping with unexpected epidemics in the future,” the statement said. Politicizing the probe will make it “hard to find the origin of the virus” but also “seriously hamper international cooperation on the pandemic.”

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Where was your patient zero?’ Chinese official speculates AMERICANS may have infected Wuhan at army games & calls to ‘come clean’“Out of a sense of responsibility towards the health of mankind,” Beijing supports “a comprehensive study of all early cases of [Covid]-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world,” the embassy said, which will be “full, transparent and evidence-based, and shall get to the bottom to make everything clear.”

While the conventional wisdom in the US is that the novel coronavirus first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 – with the only mystery being whether it jumped from animals to humans via the city’s wet market, or accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab – China has rejected both theories. At a press conference in March 2020, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry instead suspected the US of developing the virus in one of its bioweapon laboratories and sending it to China during the Wuhan military games in October that year.

The Chinese government never disavowed these remarks, saying instead that now was the time to “come together to fight [the virus] instead of leveling accusations and attacks against each other, which is not constructive at all.”

ALSO ON RT.COMBiden gives intel agencies 90 days to pinpoint Covid origins – after report he torpedoed Trump-era probe of Wuhan lab leak theoryThink your friends would be interested? Share this story!

West’s Cold War Prolongs Pandemic
worker | April 25, 2021 | 8:49 pm | China, COVID-19, Russia | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/202104221082700888-wests-cold-war-prolongs-pandemic/

COLUMNISTS

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US President Joe Biden this week hailed his target of administering 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine within 100 days of taking office. But Biden’s apparent success in rolling out vaccination may only offer his nation short-lived protection from the coronavirus.

That’s because the American strategy may be described as “vaccine nationalism” – that is, the imperative to vaccinate all US citizens before contributing to international efforts to immunize all nations. The lack of international effort is, in turn, a hostage of Cold War mentality toward China and Russia.

The gaping disparity between on the one hand the United States and other so-called rich nations and on the other hand the majority of low-income countries is causing observers to condemn “vaccine apartheid” and “vaccine inequity”. Whereas the United States can claim up to 50 percent of its population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, in many other parts of the world the percentage of the population immunized is only a fraction.

The US, Britain, and other so-called developed nations stand accused of hoarding vaccine supplies beyond what their own populations need in order to be fully covered. This largely explains why the United Nations’ COVAX program to assist the international distribution of vaccines has so far failed miserably.

 

A more ethical and medically feasible strategy would be for all nations to work in a concerted way to ensure the global population is advanced together with protective cover. The watchword: no nation is safe until all are safe. 

Look at the cases of India and Brazil. Those countries are seeing rampant outbreaks of Covid-19 from new virulent strains. Hospitals are overwhelmed and crematoria can’t cope with the bodies piling up. The longer the disease persists from lack of vaccination the more new outbreaks will erupt. This will come back to haunt everywhere on the planet, including those nations like the US where vaccination has been so far relatively successful. The perplexing unknowns are: how long can existing vaccines provide protection for, and can they work against new virulent mutations of the disease? It could turn out that the US’ seeming success at immunization is only a temporary respite from the pandemic.

Apart from lacking political will, several other factors militate against an internationalist approach to fighting the pandemic.

 A man receives a Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine called COVAXIN, at a vaccination centre, in New Delhi, India, February 13, 2021
© REUTERS / ADNAN ABIDI
A man receives a Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine called COVAXIN, at a vaccination centre, in New Delhi, India, February 13, 2021

A big factor is a constraint from corporate capitalism. The jabs innovated by the United States, including Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Novavax, are expensive and unaffordable for wide distribution in poor nations. There are also technical problems with storage and transport given the requirements for sub-zero temperature preservation of the pharmaceuticals.

Another problem is the intellectual property rights of private Pharma companies. Poorer nations are calling on Western companies to waiver property rights so that the jabs can be manufactured generically and locally. The United States and other Western governments have refused to grant such waivers in order to protect the profits of their companies, even though public money was crucial in supporting the rapid development of Covid vaccines.

Still another problem is the lack of public trust in the safety of some vaccines. The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been hampered by concerns over blood-clotting side-effects which can result in deaths. While European regulators have said the risk is minimal, and that the benefits far outweigh any harmful side effects, nevertheless several countries have discontinued using these jabs. The lack of public trust leads to lower uptake in vaccination which delays defeating the pandemic and thus all the deleterious repercussions, from new mutations to socially crushing lockdowns.

This then raises the question: why not enlist the vaccines manufactured by China and Russia in a collective global campaign to eradicate the pandemic?

 

China has at least two vaccines available: Sinovac and Sinopharm with several others also being tested. Russia has produced Sputnik V. These three vaccines have been given approval in about 70 countries so far, including European states which are dissatisfied by the slow rollout overseen by the European Union. 

The Chinese and Russian vaccines have been shown in trials to be highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths among symptomatic cases. There are no major concerns about safety issues from side effects. Moreover, unlike Western counterparts, they are relatively cheap to deliver and store.

China and Russia have also supplied some countries with free deliveries based on humanitarian concerns and have agreed to local production arrangements.

This accounts for why so many countries around the world have taken up the Chinese and Russian vaccines compared with Western jabs. The World Health Organization is expected to give Emergency Use Listing to Sinovac, Sinopharm, and Sputnik V in the coming weeks. (Why it hasn’t done so already is a good question, while having granted authorization to the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson drugs.)

When the WHO gives authorization to the Chinese and Russian jabs, it can be anticipated that the global uptake of these vaccines will greatly increase.

China has achieved a vaccine rollout of nearly 200 million doses in its own population comparable to the United States. Although with more than four times the population, China has still more to do in order to reach full protection. However, unlike the US, China has supplied an equal number of doses to dozens of other nations.

Washington and its Western allies have deprecated Chinese and Russian efforts as “vaccine diplomacy”, insinuating that Beijing and Moscow are using the pandemic to gain a soft-power advantage. This view is cynical and contemptible. The inability to think beyond Cold War-style hostility is literally making the world a sick place.

China and Russia understand that the best and most ethical way to defeat the pandemic is through vaccine internationalism, solidarity, and humanitarianism. No country is safe until all are safe.

By contrast, the United States and its Western allies are acting with narrow self-interest which is prolonging the pandemic, increasing deaths worldwide, and, ultimately, self-defeating.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Africa/Global: People’s Vaccine vs. Vaccine Apartheid
worker | April 11, 2021 | 7:08 pm | Africa, COVID-19 | Comments closed

Africa/Global: People’s Vaccine vs. Vaccine Apartheid

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 6, 2021 (2021-04-06 )
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

Despite the vast disparity in the pace of vaccinations for Covid-19, currently at over 20% having one dose in North America, 5% in the world, and less in 1% for Africa, the United States, other rich countries, and pharmaceutical companies are still rejecting growing demands to waive patents and transfer technology. See chart below and data by country at https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations.

“In prepared remarks Monday [April 5] to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs ahead of meetings this week of international finance officials,” according to the Washington Post, Yellen called on richer countries to step up both economic and public health assistance to poorer nations reeling from covid. She noted as many as 150 million people across the world risk falling into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis.”

“This would be a profound economic tragedy for those countries, one we should care about. But, that’s obvious. What’s less obvious — but equally true — is that this divergence would also be a problem for America,” Yellen said. “Our first task must clearly be stopping the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, testing and therapeutics are available as widely as possible.”

[The full speech, in which Yellen also called for international agreement on a global minimum corporate tax, is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR-2jA1gtOQ

This AfricaFocus includes several recent articles and other links documenting the potential to begin to repair this wide gap. The major barrier is political will on the part of those forces still trying to monopolize vaccinations and profits for themselves.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Africa’s health, visit

http://www.africafocus.org/intro-health.php

For an article on vaccination from January this year, see http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/vacc2101.php

For a March 25, 2021 Zoom webinar on Covid-19 Vaccines for Africa and her diaspora
Africans Rising, Advocacy Network for Africa, and Africa and African Diaspora
https://fb.watch/4BpZ91RWOb/
Includes updates from the Africa CDC on current status and a wide range of well-informed speakers.

For a global petition, now at almost 1 million signatures, visit https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/peoples_vaccine_2021_loc/

For petitions to the U.S. Congress and to President Biden, visit

https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/emergencies/covid-19-peoples-vaccine/,

https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/support-the-people-s-vaccine-1

or https://rethinktrade.org/actions/urge-biden-reverse-trumps-deadly-obstruction-of-global-covid-19-vaccine-access/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Webinar on April 12, 2021

Register at https://tinyurl.com/3b2erv5a

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Coalition Calls on Biden to Use US-Owned Patent to Share Covid Vaccine With the World

“The U.S. government can help end the pandemic if it uses its legal leverage with Moderna to jumpstart an ambitious vaccine manufacturing program to benefit the world.”

Common Dreams, March 26, 2021

by Jake Johnson, staff writer

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/03/26/coalition-calls-biden-use-us-owned-patent-share-covid-vaccine-world

Public health advocacy groups and scientists are pressuring the Biden administration to use the U.S. government’s ownership of a key patent as leverage to ensure that the coronavirus vaccine co-developed by Moderna and National Institutes of Health is widely produced and distributed around the world, particularly in developing countries.

The patent in question covers crucial spike-protein technology developed by the NIH, an invention that has since been utilized in at least five major Covid vaccines—including the Moderna-NIH shot formally known as mRNA-1273.

In a letter (pdf) earlier this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, NIH Director Francis Collins, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci, a coalition of advocacy groups led by PrEP4All and around a dozen scientists said the government-owned patent should be used as a “tool” to “facilitate scale-up of production of mRNA-1273 and ensure rapid, equitable global access.”

“The U.S. government has not licensed the patent to Moderna. It is imperative that the NIH uses any licensing agreement to include provisions to help increase global access to this lifesaving technology, rather than just a monetary royalty,” the letter reads. “U.S. taxpayers have invested over $2.5 billion in the development of mRNA-1273. Now it is time for our government to ensure that this critical lifesaving technology be made available to all. This could contribute to saving millions of lives globally.”

The new demand comes as the United States and other rich nations continue to block an India and South Africa-led push to temporarily waive certain international patent protections in order to expand access to coronavirus vaccines in countries currently struggling to administer a single shot.

In their letter on Wednesday, the public health organizations urged the U.S. government to use its leverage to negotiate patent licensing terms that “require technology sharing with the World Health Organization to help ramp up global production” and guarantee widespread distribution of the vaccine at a low cost.

As the New York Times reported earlier this week, the WHO “created a technology pool last year to encourage companies to share know-how with manufacturers in lower-income nations. Not a single vaccine company has signed up.”

“The problem is that the companies don’t want to do it,” James Love, head of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International, told the Times. “And the government is just not very tough with the companies.”

Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines program at Public Citizen, lamented in a statement that “the U.S. government has an embarrassing history of giving away publicly-funded and publicly- owned medical technology to corporations, which then ration it back to the people at monopoly prices.”

“The U.S. government can help end the pandemic if it uses its legal leverage with Moderna to jumpstart an ambitious vaccine manufacturing program to benefit the world,” Maybarduk said. “We must do better. Many lives are at stake.”

Read the full letter:

Dear Secretary Becerra, Dr. Collins, and Dr. Fauci:

We write about the soon-to-issue-patent, U.S. Patent No. 10,960,070 (“the ‘070 patent”), that protects the use of proline-substituted coronavirus spike proteins stabilized in their prefusion conformation as a vaccine immunogen. The mRNA-1273 vaccine, co-developed by NIAID and Moderna, utilizes this technology for its immunogen. The ‘070 patent is owned by the United States Government, reflecting the critical contributions that NIAID and NIH made to the invention of this technology.

This government-owned patent is an important policy tool that the U.S. government could use to facilitate scale-up of production of mRNA-1273 and ensure rapid, equitable global access. Currently, at best, only one billion doses of mRNA-1273 will be produced in 2021, far short of global demand.

The U.S. government has not licensed the patent to Moderna. It is imperative that the NIH uses any licensing agreement to include provisions to help increase global access to this lifesaving technology, rather than just a monetary royalty.

Specifically, the licensing agreement should:

1. Empower the U.S. government to authorize manufacturing of mRNA-1273—including by government-owned production facilities.

Currently, Moderna has only contracted with a single contract manufacturing organization (CMO), Lonza Group AG, to produce drug substance for mRNA-1273. By contracting with other CMOs to produce drug substance and help perform other manufacturing steps, more doses of mRNA-1273 could be produced. Such provisions should include the ability for the U.S. government to compel transfer of know-how from Moderna to other CMOs to facilitate scale up for all production steps of the manufacturing process.

2. Require technology sharing with the World Health Organization to help ramp up global production.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization has urged countries to share vaccine technology and know-how openly to help build global manufacturing capacity. Moderna has so far ignored requests from developing country manufacturers to share technology. Requiring Moderna to work with the WHO’s COVID-19 technology access pool can help unlock additional production.

3. Include requirements for accessible pricing universally.

Moderna is currently charging between US$10 and US$40 a dose for mRNA-12738, despite it costing less than $3 a dose to manufacture. This high price, coupled with Moderna’s lack of planned market entry for many low-and middle-income countries, may prevent those most in need from accessing mRNA-1273. Licensing the ‘070 patent gives the U.S. government leverage to increase global access by requiring accessible pricing to mRNA-1273.

Assertion of U.S. government-owned intellectual property to increase access to pharmaceutical products is not unprecedented. In 2019, the federal government sued Gilead Sciences for its infringement of government owned patents protecting the use of Truvada and Descovy for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)—and per the complaint itself, is using that litigation to increase access to PrEP. That lawsuit is ongoing.

U.S. taxpayers have invested over $2.5 billion in the development of mRNA-1273. Now it is time for our government to ensure that this critical lifesaving technology be made available to all. This could contribute to saving millions of lives globally. It also will help protect public health here at home. Global vaccination with highly effective vaccines, like mRNA-1273, is our best defense against the development of vaccine-resistant variants of SARS-CoV2.

Thank you.

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U.S. and European COVID-19 shots aren’t enough. It is time to tap into Africa, Asia, and Latin America’s enormous production capacity.

by Matthew Kavanagh, Mara Pillinger, Renu Singh, Katherine Ginsbach |

March 1, 2021

[Excerpt: for full article visit https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/03/01/to-democratize-vaccine-access-democratize-production/]

As wealthy countries inoculate millions of their citizens against COVID-19 and other countries wait to even begin the rollout, G-7 leaders are increasingly struggling to address geopolitically charged vaccine inequities.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently noted his fear that countries would turn to China and Russia for vaccines and “the power of the West will … not be a reality.” He later walked back his statement somewhat, clarifying that vaccines are a matter of public health—not power. They are, of course, both. But Macron and other leaders will never get either issue right as long as they remain focused on what portion of a relatively small supply of vaccines to share. Rather, the real game-changer lies in a very feasible effort to expand the pool of available vaccines.

At the moment, vaccine production approved in the United States and Europe is needlessly limited to a handful of companies struggling to get enough vaccines out the door to meet demand. Yet in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there is enormous human and production capacity that could be mobilized to make more vaccines and address the needs of people in low- and middle-income countries. Governments and companies, especially in middle-income countries, have been asking to do so. As Western firms have demurred, Russia has taken them up on their offers, sharing Sputnik V know-how for production in Brazil, India, Turkey, and South Korea. If U.S. and European Union leaders want to address both the public health and diplomatic imperatives facing them—while also vaccinating their own populations—they should consider doing the same.

Vaccine development is largely funded by public money. The United States and Europe have poured massive resources into research and development as well as advance purchase agreements that remove risks for companies to develop vaccines. The United States, for example, put $2.48 billion into the new National Institutes of Health (NIH) /Moderna vaccine alongside a huge investment of effort in government scientists who pioneered them. Likewise, the German government provided $445 million to develop the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

This spending brought remarkable breakthroughs for stopping COVID-19 and for future global health security. The kinds of shots Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and others have developed are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, which are simpler to make, easier to scale, and faster to adapt in the face of variants than traditional vaccines. The technology might soon bring breakthroughs against HIV, malaria, or influenza and enable rapid COVID-19 vaccine development against new emerging diseases. Logistical challenges that have dogged the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, like cold chain storage, can be tackled. Moderna, for example, announced just before approval that its vaccine can now be kept refrigerated, not frozen, for 30 days.

The United States and Europe have far more to gain by sharing these technologies than by hoarding them, from preventing a never-ending cycle of new variants to rebuilding global trade and gaining soft- power influence. They should immediately work to allow production of cutting-edge COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Some observers have claimed that such an effort would not be possible, take too long, or cost too much. They are wrong, as the world’s experience developing HIV medicines shows.

After millions died without access to medications, today’s cutting- edge HIV drugs frequently come to market with near-simultaneous production by multiple companies in low- and middle-income countries. This is a direct result of government investment in production capacity, sharing of technology, and use of voluntary and compulsory measures to overcome patent barriers.

[more]

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A national vaccine effort and speedy rollout is literally a matter of life and death

By Mark Heywood

30 March 2021

Mark Heywood is the editor of Maverick Citizen.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-03-30-a-national-vaccine-effort-and-speedy-rollout-is-literally-a-matter-of-life-and-death/

Maverick Citizen: Editorial

As South Africa stares at the looming third wave of Covid-19 and the strong possibility that travel restrictions will be reintroduced over Easter, it is now clear that the warnings and anger expressed by scientists and civil society early this year about SA’s vaccine preparedness were not unfounded.

As of Saturday, we have vaccinated only 220,129 healthcare workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as part of the Sisonke clinical trial. This is about 25% of our health workforce but only 0.4% of our total population. It has not included many front- line workers in the health system, such as community health workers, or administrative staff, such as porters, cleaners and security guards. Vaccines have also not reached rural healthcare workers.

This means that when the third wave breaks, health workers, many of whom have already been ill with Covid-19, will again find themselves in the line of danger.

We should be doing much better and people are entitled to honest answers about why we are failing. It is a matter of life and death. In developed countries that have scaled up vaccine rollout there is growing evidence that vaccines are making a difference. For example, an editorial this week in the South African Medical Journal records that: “Where the AstraZeneca vaccine is in use, mortality in vaccinated populations has plummeted, including in the UK, home to its own more infectious and virulent B.1.1.7 variant.”

Questions remain as to why we sold on a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Similarly a study just published in The New England Journal of Medicine has shown that, after vaccination with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, rates of infection among healthcare workers at California hospitals reduced the absolute risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 to between 1.19% and 0.97% among healthcare workers at two large hospitals. Life and death: these are the reasons why there is growing public anxiety and anger over South Africa’s failures so far.

There is nothing people in SA want more than unity around a national vaccine effort. We are desperate to rally behind and contribute to a well-thought-out national strategic plan, which we are told will soon be approved by the Cabinet. But to achieve unity government will need to act differently.

Below are six steps we believe will save lives and restore confidence.

Consistent reporting of numbers vaccinated and of health system readiness

Since early in 2020 government has released daily reports on the Coronavirus Resource Portal of the numbers of Covid-19 infections, tests, deaths and recoveries. It has also sent these reports to the media. This now includes the total number vaccinated. But it is also important that information include numbers of vaccinations by province; by category of health worker; and a list of vaccination sites that are ready for phase two of the rollout.

Publishing all Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) advisories

Since 11 January this year no MAC advisories have been made public, and in particular none of the advisories of the MAC on Vaccines. People have the right to know what scientists are advising the government and whether government is acting on these advisories.

A high-visibility public communication campaign and community-based social mobilisation to overcome vaccine hesitancy

We are well aware of vaccine hesitancy and misunderstanding. Even nurses are reported to be declining vaccinations in some areas. But there is very little visible or audible public information and education campaign. Where there has been information, much of it is on digital platforms, which leaves out millions of people, including those who are most at risk. A massive decentralised campaign in the media, but also on the ground, mobilising the very same people and organisations that will organise the vaccine rollout, needs to start now.

Fixing the health system and rooting out corruption and incompetence

This week Maverick Citizen raised the alarm about the near collapse of the public health system in the Eastern Cape. We appealed to the Minister of Health to intervene. Our health system is now in ICU. This threatens our ability to vaccinate and treat not only Covid-19 but also other epidemics of HIV, TB and noncommunicable diseases. There is an urgent need for a fully funded plan to fix the health system. This also means acting against corruption and incompetence that violates constitutional rights, including dignity, life and access to healthcare services.

Transparent negotiations with pharmaceutical companies

So far, we believe, the Vaccine MAC has recommended three vaccines for use in SA: they are Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Pfizer and Moderna. Moderna is a highly efficacious vaccine but is excessively priced and so is not being considered. It is of great concern that negotiations with AstraZeneca, J&J and Pfizer are taking place in total secrecy. We have learnt that this is on the instruction of the companies, which have imposed far-reaching non-disclosure agreements on our government. This has been their behaviour worldwide. Although it is accepted that not every aspect of a contractual negotiation can take place in public, total secrecy causes distrust and fear; it is open to abuse and corruption. In SA there is a constitutional right of access to information. Multinational pharmaceutical companies cannot be allowed to exploit desperation so as to escape public scrutiny about the terms they are imposing. These private companies have a monopoly over a public good. South Africa is a sovereign constitutional state, founded on human rights, and has power in relation to these companies. Government should be prepared to use it just as civil society demanded in relation to access to antiretroviral medicines for HIV.

African and international solidarity and actively pursuing the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) waiver

SA and India have formally applied for a waiver of certain provisions of the World Trade Organisation TRIPS agreement during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Removing ill-deserved intellectual property barriers could increase the manufacture and supply of Covid-19 vaccines and give governments greater power through the use of compulsory licensing where warranted. So far SA’s proposal has been supported by 100 countries, but is being opposed by the US, the UK and other countries. It is now one year since the start of the hard lockdown. Perhaps the greatest difference as we enter the second year is that we now have pharmaceutical interventions that can help us fight the pandemic.

This is not a reason to dispense with masks, sanitisers or physical distancing. But it is a means to save lives, limit the damage to our economy and restore hope. Urgency, transparency and accountability must start now.

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Links to more recent articles

https://www.pressenza.com/2021/03/why-the-u-s-and-its-allies-are-stupid-to-turn-covid-19-vaccination-into-a-geopolitical-power-play/

https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/02/24/vaccine-geopolitics-could-derail-africa-s-post-pandemic-recovery-pub-83928

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/21/world/vaccine-patents-us-eu.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/03/20/covid-vaccine-global-shortages/

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/03/12/nobel-economists-suspend-vaccine-patents-halt-pandemic

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/10/dont-let-intellectual-property-rights-get-way-global-vaccination/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/30/coronavirus-vaccine-distribution-global-disparity

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Hillary Clinton urges Biden to give Covid-19 vaccines to poor nations, complains that Russia and China lead in ‘VACCINE DIPLOMACY’
worker | March 24, 2021 | 8:36 pm | COVID-19, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/news/518968-clinton-vaccine-diplomacy-sputnik/

Hillary Clinton urges Biden to give Covid-19 vaccines to poor nations, complains that Russia and China lead in ‘VACCINE DIPLOMACY’

Hillary Clinton urges Biden to give Covid-19 vaccines to poor nations, complains that Russia and China lead in 'VACCINE DIPLOMACY'
Ex-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has offered unsolicited leadership advice to President Joe Biden, bemoaning the fact he allowed Russia and China to get ahead in “vaccine diplomacy” – giving Covid-19 jabs to poor nations.

“This is the kind of leadership that the United States has historically been known for, which frankly, we should be lifting up and doing more of,” Clinton said on Monday in an interview with Foreign Affairs magazine. “And what I’m intrigued by, and a little saddened by, is the way both China and Russia are pushing their vaccines.”

ALSO ON RT.COMPioneering Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine is considered ‘halal’ for Muslims, Russia’s Ulema Council for Islamic faith concludesClinton noted that Russia and China are using “vaccine diplomacy” – building goodwill with poor countries by helping them inoculate their populations against Covid-19. “They are going into countries and saying, ‘We’ll take care of you,'” she said. “And that leaves the United States playing catch-up.”

The former first lady, senator and secretary of state acknowledged that the Biden administration must balance foreign-affairs concerns with the need to vaccinate the US population. It appears that the country will have more than enough supplies to do that, she said, but Covid-19 variants could complicate matters.

The Biden administration has already met its goal of delivering 100 million vaccine doses in the president’s first 100 days in office, with more than a month to spare.

 “We’re not at the end of this,” Clinton said. “I mean, when the vast majority of the world is not yet vaccinated, that is like a petri dish for more variants to develop. We are, you know, walking a fine line here. Let’s vaccinate us. But at the same time, let’s do everything we can to try to provide as much vaccination support to the rest of the world as possible.”

ALSO ON RT.COMRussian President Vladimir Putin receives domestically produced Covid-19 vaccine as nationwide immunization campaign continuesRussia has signed deals to supply its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine to more than 40 countries at a time when poor nations have struggled to access the inoculations developed by Western companies. After early international skepticism because of its record-fast development and approval, Sputnik V is in high demand after being found by the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet to be safe and highly effective against the virus.

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Cuba and China jointly develop a vaccine against new strains of SARS-CoV-2
worker | March 22, 2021 | 8:04 pm | China, COVID-19, Cuba | Comments closed

Cuba and China jointly develop a vaccine against new strains of SARS-CoV-2

March 21, 2021
News, Health 10 Comments

Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Photo: ACN.

China and Cuba join efforts to obtain a vaccine, called Pan-Corona, that is effective against different strains of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and prevents Covid-19, Xinhua reported on Sunday.

According to the news agency, national scientists and those from the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) of the Antillean island are developing the product in an open facility in the city of Yongzhou, Hunan province (center), for research between the two countries. .

Gerardo Guillén, director of Biomedical Research at the CIGB, told that media that the project arose at the request of the Chinese side and has the approval of the Cuban Ministry of Science and Technology.

It is based on combining parts of the virus that are conserved and not so exposed to variation to generate antibodies, with those directed at cellular responses.

“It is a strategy that could protect against epidemiological emergencies of new strains of the coronavirus that may exist in the future,” he said.

According to Guillén, they are waiting to improve travel conditions so that other Cuban researchers can join the Yongzhou center and further promote the project.

He also highlighted the good state of bilateral ties in the biotechnology branch, where his country contributes experience and personnel, while the Chinese side supports with “the scientific capacity, equipment, logistics and resources.”

Last year, the assembly of the Yongzhou Joint Biotechnology Innovation Center was completed, with equipment and laboratories designed by specialists from the island.

There, projects and technologies obtained by the scientific personnel of Cuba will be developed.

This site is the result of bilateral cooperation and is part of the policy approved by the Chinese government to stimulate innovation capacities through local administrations.

(With information from PL)

Printed article from: Cubadebate: http://www.cubadebate.cu

Article URL: http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2021/03/21/cuba-y-china-desarrollan-en-conjunto-vacuna-contra-nuevas-cepas-del-sars-cov-2/

US Secretly ‘Persuaded’ Bolsonaro to Reject Russian COVID Vaccine, Investigative Journalist Explains
worker | March 18, 2021 | 8:16 pm | Brazil, COVID-19, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/interviews/202103181082380041-us-secretly-persuaded-bolsonaro-to-reject-russian-covid-vaccine-investigative-journalist-explains/

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The US government has been pressuring countries not to accept healthcare assistance from countries deemed to be “detrimental” to US safety and security, such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia, explains investigative journalist John McEvoy, who first broke the story.

John McEvoy is an independent journalist who has published in the International History Review, The Canary, Tribune Magazine, Jacobin, Declassified UK, and Brasil Wire, among other publications. He reported from Venezuela during the coup efforts in 2019, from Colombia during the student protests the same year, and from France in 2020 on the Yellow Vests movement and general strike.

Mr McEvoy’s main research focus is in contemporary British involvement in Latin America – notably British state intervention and natural resource extraction in Colombia since 1989. McEvoy told Sputnik about his latest exclusive with Brasil Wire, which revealed that the US Department of Health had pressured the Brazilian government not to accept Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, designed to protect against COVID-19.

“[T]he logic of denying a country necessary healthcare during a pandemic – simply in order to remove a potential soft victory from an Official Enemy – borders on genocidal”, McEvoy argued.

Sputnik: What exactly is it that you discovered the US Department of Health has been doing in relation to the vaccine Sputnik V, produced in Russia?

John McEvoy: According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ own report, a US health attaché based in Brazil persuaded “Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine”. The reason for this, the report noted, was to counter “malign influences” in the Americas – meaning Russia, as well as Venezuela and Cuba. So, in short, we discovered that in order to deny Russia a soft power victory in the Americas, the US government actively encouraged the Bolsonaro administration, which owes its very power to a US-backed soft coup, not to purchase an independently approved vaccine.

 

This decision could have resulted in the deaths of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Brazilians. 282,000 Brazilians have died of COVID-19 already, Brazil is currently in its worst phase since the pandemic began, and Bolsonaro’s disastrous COVID-19 policy is largely to blame for this state of affairs.

Sputnik: Are there countries other than Brazil which were also pressured not to accept Sputnik V?

John McEvoy: It’s not clear from this report, but if the US is capable of weighing on Latin America’s largest country, it’s likely that it has at least attempted to pursue similar policies elsewhere. We also know that the US has dispatched health attachés to China, India, Mexico, and South Africa, who are likely charged with similar responsibilities. Of course, however, the health attaché is not the only way the US could achieve this objective of persuading smaller countries to purchase certain vaccines and not others.

Sputnik: Do we know whether these US policies have actually been effective in preventing the use of Sputnik V?

John McEvoy: The Bolsonaro government recently organised the purchase of tens of millions of the Sputnik V vaccine, almost certainly in response to his government’s total mishandling of the pandemic, leading it into crisis zone. But prior to this, Bolsonaro was slow to reach a deal for the purchase of any vaccine except for AstraZeneca’s, leading to total confusion among medical professionals with regards to his COVID-19 policy. Why was he relying on a vaccine that wasn’t even ready for production, while others had come online and were already proven to be effective? Well, it looks like we now have our answer.

 

On that note, Brasil Wire also recently revealed that in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election, the British government had also been secretly lobbying the Bolsonaro campaign on behalf of AstraZeneca, as well as its mining interests. It’s not clear whether a relationship between Bolsonaro and AstraZeneca was made as early as 2018, before the pandemic, but it’s certainly also worth considering.

Sputnik: The US Department of Health has also apparently targeted health support and solidarity coming from places like Cuba. Can you explain what is known about this?

John McEvoy: The US DHHS report also noted that it had offered, “CDC technical assistance in lieu of Panama accepting an offer of Cuban doctors”. Cuban doctors, as you know, have been on the frontline of confronting the pandemic since it first spread worldwide in early 2020. They’ve been operational in over 40 countries, mostly in places which have weak healthcare systems.

If you recall, at the start of the pandemic, Cuban doctors were also essential to helping British citizens trapped on a ferry which was refused permission to dock in the Bahamas and Barbados, for which the British government publicly thanked Cuba. So while Cuba exports health, the US – as a general rule – exports misery and poverty. This notion is rarely seen so clearly as in the example of the US actively trying to prevent Panama – which now has one of the worst COVID-19 rates in the entire region – from allowing entry to Cuban doctors, which clearly could have remedied its current terrible predicament.

Sputnik: Why should the average person care about these policies?

John McEvoy: I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that the logic of denying a country necessary healthcare during a pandemic – simply in order to remove a potential soft victory from an Official Enemy – borders on genocidal. Of course, we’ve seen the US engage in these types of activities for years – placing crushing sanctions on countries like Venezuela and Syria, which the UN special rapporteur found were massively impacting the civilian population. In a general sense, these types of erosions of sovereignty need to be public knowledge – Bolsonaro came to power through a US-backed soft coup, and now the US seems partially responsible for the deaths of thousands of Brazilians.

The average person should also care because when we see the US accusing Russia of spreading disinformation about vaccines or meddling in elections, there’s a significant element of projection to this – the US is basically always guilty of doing exactly what it says Russia or whoever else is doing.