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Johns Hopkins: Nearly 90 Million Global COVID-19 Cases

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Saturday that there are nearly 90 million global COVID-19 cases.

The United States has more cases than anyplace else with almost 22 million infections. India comes in second with about half the infections of the U.S. — nearly 10.5 million cases.

The U.S. reported more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases Friday, a record-breaking number.

With the virus surging in some U.S. states, President-elect Joe Biden says he believes in the rapid release of the COVID-19 vaccines so whoever wants it will have access to it. The second dose of the vaccine is given weeks later.

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said earlier this week he is hopeful that when Biden is in office, the U.S. will be able to deliver to the U.S. public “1 million vaccinations per day, as the president-elect has mentioned.”

A surprising development, however, has emerged in some implausible locations. The Associated Press reports that some health care workers in hospitals and nursing homes are hesitant about being vaccinated. The AP said its investigation uncovered that in some places as much as 80% of the medical staff has declined the vaccinations.

One doctor told the wire service he wanted to wait a few months to “see what the data show.” He said, “I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig.”

A nurse said she was delaying her vaccination because of the vaccine’s “unknown side effects.”

Some medical personnel, however, are reversing their hesitancy. One medical director told AP that “The biggest thing that helped us to gain confidence in our staff was watching other staff members get vaccinated, be OK, walk out of the room, you know, not grow a third ear, and so that really is like an avalanche,” causing staff members to rethink how they view the inoculations.

Some countries are also taking a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to vaccines. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are among the countries that have decided to see what is happening in the rest of the world with the inoculations.

Jennifer Martin, an Australian physician who is also on the advisory committee of the sole purchaser for pharmaceuticals in New Zealand, said, “Why would you put people at risk when if you wait a bit longer, you can get more information?”

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Friday urged the manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines and the wealthier countries to make them available to poorer countries. He said of the 42 countries that are rolling out coronavirus vaccines, most of them are high-income nations and a few are middle-income countries.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has banned imports of COVID-19 vaccines from America’s Pfizer-BioNTech and Britain’s AstraZeneca, citing a mistrust of Western countries.

“I really do not trust them,” Khamenei said Friday in a televised speech. “Sometimes they seek to try out their vaccines on other nations to see if it works or not,” he said. “I am not optimistic [about] France, either.”

Khamenei said he continues to allow the import of vaccines from other “safe” places and still supports his country’s efforts to produce its own vaccine.

Iran began human trials with its vaccines in December and officials hope they will be available in the country in a few months.

In Saudi Arabia, the country’s 82-year-old monarch, King Salman, received the coronavirus vaccination, according to video published by state media Friday. Saudi health officials recorded just 97 new cases of the virus Friday and four deaths as infections in the country continue to decline.

India said Saturday it has recorded 18,222 new COVID cases in the past 24 hours. The health ministry also said it has now recorded 90 cases of the British variant of the virus.

Source: Voice of America

Nigeria’s Goal: Vaccinate 40% of Population Against COVID-19 This Year

ABUJA, NIGERIA – Nigerian officials say the country is ready to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of January. The government wants to vaccinate 40% of the country’s population by the end of this year. But experts say the cost and storage of the vaccine poses a challenge.

Officials said President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would be the first recipients of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the first 100,000 doses of which are expected to be available this month.

They said the vaccine then would be distributed to key political leaders and health workers in order to raise awareness before it gets to the citizens.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said,

“We have actually developed a comprehensive deployment plan on how we are going to deploy these vaccines in phases. We’re aiming to cover up to 70% of the population just to ensure that we’re able to stop transmission.”

Shuaib said 40% of the population was expected to get shots this year and the remaining 30% by the end of next year.

Lacking storage

But experts said Nigeria does not have adequate storage facilities to hold vaccines at the required temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius.

Also, the demand and cost for vaccines are very high, making it nearly impossible to accommodate that many doses anytime soon in Nigeria, according to pharmaceutical research expert Olobayo Kunle.

“A number of our colleagues, scientists in this country have worked hard, but one thing is for sure: The vaccines that are in use, we were not directly involved in the development,” Kunle said. “So, sitting here and developing timelines is a bit difficult.”

Many African countries are facing the challenge of securing adequate supplies of the coronavirus vaccine because of the high cost. But the World Health Organization-backed COVAX program is making sure countries like Nigeria are not left behind, Shuaib said.

“There’s been a preponderance of vaccines going to the richer countries,” Shuaib said, “so what the COVAX facility is trying to do is to make sure that vaccines are available to low- and medium-income countries irrespective of their abilities to pay. For example, they’re going to be providing up to 20% of Nigeria’s population in terms of needs for vaccine free of charge.”

Nigerian authorities are also bargaining with vaccine manufacturers in Britain, Russia and China and say they would prefer vaccines that are easy to store and deliver.

Source: Voice of America