Associated Press reports that a growing number of women in the poorest African countries are missing out on vaccines – a stark gender-based disparity that has African women behind, as the world’s least vaccinated population. In some countries and cultures, women require permission from a husband, or they may lack the necessary technology for making vaccination appointments. In addition, the fear of missing work due to side effects has put some women off vaccination.

Health officials attribute the gender gap to vaccine misinformation, particularly about the vaccine having a negative impact on fertility (especially in Muslim countries such as Gambia and Somalia). These stories spread while vaccine roll-out was delayed, and was fed by low literacy among women, who get most of their byword-of-mouth. Poor communication has hindered vaccination campaigns, such as in the Gambia, where the only available vaccine was from AstraZeneca. Poor translation of information about the risk of rare blood clots from the vaccine led many Gambians to believe that the vaccine would completely stop blood flow.

Changing eligibility, such as in Gabon, where vaccination was initially not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women, has created confusion, leading many women to forgo vaccination.

Gender-disaggregated vaccination data are limited. “In most countries in the world, we just don’t have the data to tell us if there is a COVID-19 gender divide,” said Sarah Hawkes, director of the Centre for Gender and Global Health at UCL, adding, “But the few numbers that we do have suggest that it’s a problem. Source

• In the UK, where vaccination among 12- to 15-year-olds began in schools last month, only 12 percent had been given a first dose (versus 40 percent in Scotland, where vaccines are administered in clinics). The prevalence of COVID-19 is high and rising among those aged 17 and younger, driving up the nation’s infection rate despite a decrease of infections among people ages 18-54. Source

• Global sales of ivermectin have skyrocketed, despite lack of evidence that the drug is effective against COVID-19 – and the discovery of medical fraud in some clinical trials of the medicine. Health officials warn that improper dosing of human ivermectin could cause nausea, dizziness, seizures, coma, and even death. Nonetheless, some drug makers are marketing ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 (although former patent holder Merck and other companies have issued warnings about the drug). Doctors continue to prescribe it, sometimes because they have no other options. Carlos Chacour, assistant research professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health who has studied ivermectin as a treatment for malaria, says “There are people that have fished in a wild river, taken advantage of the situation to get some profit.” Source

• WHO reports that global coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19 decreased over the last week, especially in the Africa and Western Pacific regions. Europe was an outlier; cases increased by seven percent, while deaths across the region increased by 11 percent. Source

• A month after African leaders urged high-income nations to make coronavirus vaccines available at the UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden announced a donation of 17 million doses during a meeting with Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta. Source

• South Korea, which has fully vaccinated 62 percent of its residents, announced that it is sending 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to Vietnam and Thailand. Source

• Regeneron issues a press release announcing that the US FDA has accepted its application for priority review of its application for full approval of Regeneron (the combination of monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab) to treat COVID-19 in outpatients and as prophylaxis in certain individuals. The company has also submitted an application to EMA for Marketing Authorization. Source

• An FDA advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend Moderna’s half-dose coronavirus booster six months after ful vaccination for people over age 65 and younger adults who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 or serious complications because of medical conditions or their jobs. If the FDA authorizes the booster, and vaccine experts at the US CDC approve, Moderna’s booster could become available in a couple of weeks. Source

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