22 June 2021

• The United Nations World Food Program announces that tens of millions of people in 43 countries -an increase of 50 percent over 2019 – may be facing famine in the near future and it is already reality for over 550,000 people in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen. The pandemic has disrupted supply chains and stalled agricultural production, leading to soaring food prices. “Forty-one million people are literally knocking on famine’s door,” said David Beasley, the World Food Program’s Executive Director, who estimated that $6 billion is needed to prevent this catastrophe. Source

• Cuban health authorities announce that the domestically produced, three-shot Abdala vaccine was 92 percent effective against COVID-19 in late-stage clinical trials. Source

• India administers 8.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in a single day to usher in its new free-of-charge policy. Local news reports suggest that the opening-day total was only possible because vaccines were held back for days in some states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing party. As an example, in Madhya Pradesh, vaccinations diminished to just 692 a day until Monday, when 1.6 million doses were suddenly administered. The surge in vaccination may not last long, as India is short on vaccines. Less than five percent of India’s 1.4 billion people have been fully vaccinated, and only 20 percent have gotten a first shot. Source

• As the Philippines battles coronavirus, President Rodrigo Duterte threatens to jail anyone who refuses to be vaccinated, urging anyone who did not want to be vaccinated to “leave the Philippines,” and go elsewhere, like India or America. The country’s vaccination efforts have been hindered by distribution bottlenecks and public fears after the government stopped a dengue immunization program in 2017 after dozens of children died from a severe form of the disease linked with the vaccine. Source

• Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of health-emergencies program at WHO, warns that the Delta variant “…is faster, it is fitter, it will pick off the more vulnerable more efficiently than previous variants, and therefore if there are people left without vaccination, they remain even at further risk.” Source

• Although it is in the midst of its worst-ever outbreak of coronavirus, Thailand opens the “Phuket Sandbox” to fully vaccinated tourists from low- or medium-risk countries. They will be required to wear tracking wristbands during their mandatory 14-day stay. “Sandbox” visitors can then travel to the rest of Thailand after multiple Covid-19 tests. Only 45 percent of Phuket’s residents have been vaccinated – with the potentially less-effective Sinovac vaccine. Source

• Dr. Bruce Aylward, a WHO senior advisor, noted that of the 80 low-income countries in COVAX, “…at least half of them do not have sufficient vaccines to be able to sustain their programmes right now…well over half of countries have run out of stock and are calling for additional vaccine.” He added that shortages have forced some countries to buy vaccines priced above market value. Source

• The White House admits that President Biden does not expect 70 percent of adults in the US to have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by 4 July; the country will achieve this among people aged 27 and over, and in 67 percent of all adults. Source

• Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, former prime minister Raila Odinga and other politicians came to Kisumu during a national holiday in May, disregarding  warnings from health advisors. They drew huge crowds – mostly maskless and weeks later, a surge in coronavirus cases, driven by the Delta variant. Health officials fear a disaster, given that doctors are already exhausted, healthcare workers lack PPE, medical supplies and vaccines are scarce and hospitals are turning people away because they do not have beds or oxygen. Dr. Onyango Ndong’a, chairman of the local chapter of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union said “We are covering for government inadequacies. We are tired now. We are stretched.” Source

• Chile’s President, Sebastian Pinera, said the country is considering whether to give people a third booster dose of coronavirus vaccine. The country relied on  Sinovac’s CoronaVac; a real-life study there found that two doses of the vaccine were 67 percent effective for preventing symptomatic COVID-19, 85% effective for preventing hospitalization, and 80% effective at preventing death. Researchers are now looking at duration of protection from the vaccine; they suspect that people who were vaccinated during Q1 of 2021 may need a booster by September; they are also concerned about the vaccine’s effectiveness against variants. Although Chile has not reported cases of the Delta variant, it has been detected in neighboring countries.  Source

• Ivermectin, a medicine used to treat parasites in people and animals, has also demonstrated that it reduces viral load and duration of symptoms in people with mild COVID-19. It will be studied with the antiviral favipiravir in the Platform Randomized Trial of Treatments in the Community for Epidemic and Pandemic Illnesses, which is the world’s largest clinical trial of potential COVID-19 treatments in outpatients. Source

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