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COVAX Urges Countries Not to Widen Vaccine Divide

Workers in personal protective equipment sanitize a street in the wake of a spike in the number of positive coronavirus cases, in downtown Guatemala City, July 1, 2021.
Workers in personal protective equipment sanitize a street in the wake of a spike in the number of positive coronavirus cases, in downtown Guatemala City, July 1, 2021.

COVAX, the World Health Organization initiative for the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, is urging countries to recognize as fully vaccinated all people who have received COVID-19 vaccines that COVAX has recognized as safe and effective.

“Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the re-opening of travel,” COVAX said, would only serve to further widen “the global vaccine divide.” Such a move would also intensify “the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” the COVAX statement said.

India said Friday it has sent teams to six states to contain high COVID infection rates. The states receiving the teams are Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Manipur.

India’s health ministry said Friday it had recorded 46,617 new cases and 853 deaths in the previous 24-hour period.

On Thursday, Washington announced it is dispatching “surge response” teams to U.S. areas hard hit by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, recently said the variant first identified in India poses the “greatest threat” to bringing an end to the COVID outbreak in the U.S.

Also Thursday, Johnson & Johnson announced that “its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine generated strong, persistent activity against the rapidly spreading delta variant and other highly prevalent SARS-CoV-2 viral variants. In addition, the data showed that the durability of the immune response lasted through at least eight months, the length of time evaluated to date.”

The World Health Organization’s African region is facing a serious third wave of COVID-19 cases, driven by variants throughout the continent.

In a virtual briefing with reporters Thursday, WHO Africa Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti said new cases have increased in Africa by an average of 25% for six straight weeks to almost 202,000 in the week ending June 27, with deaths rising by 15% across 38 African countries to nearly 3,000 in the same period.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before,” Moeti said. “The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level.”

Meanwhile, WHO European Regional Director Hans Kluge said Thursday that region’s streak of 10 straight weeks of declining COVID-19 cases has come to end. During his weekly briefing in Copenhagen, he said cases in the region’s 53 countries increased 10% last week.

Kluge attributed the rise to “increased mixing, travel, gatherings and easing of social restrictions,” which he said is taking place amid “a rapidly evolving situation” – the emergence of the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, a situation aggravated by the region’s slow rate of vaccinations.

Women stand in a line to get tested for COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, July 2, 2021.
Women stand in a line to get tested for COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, July 2, 2021.

Elsewhere in Europe, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called the decision by the organizers of the Euro Cup 2020 soccer championships “utterly irresponsible” for holding their tournament during a pandemic.

Seehofer said the decision by the Union of European Football Associations to hold games in stadiums around Europe with largely unmasked crowds of up to 60,000 people was clearly more about commerce than protection. He said that while some localities put restrictions on the crowds, the organization should have made those decisions itself.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced Thursday that new emergency measures will go into effect Saturday for the islands of Java and Bali to blunt the rise of new cases in the world’s fourth most-populous country.

The measures, which include tighter restrictions on movement and air travel, a ban on restaurant dining and the closure of nonessential offices, will last through July 20, a period that includes the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said Friday that it has recorded 129.6 million global COVID cases and nearly 4 million deaths.

The United States has remains the world leader in COVID cases with 33.7 million cases, followed by India with 30.4 million and Brazil with 18.6 million.

Johns Hopkins says more than 3 billion vaccines have been administered.

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