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COVOD-19

I got my first COVID shot in Nigeria, second in the UK – difference was infuriating

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  • In Nigeria, less than 3% of the population has gotten the Covid vaccine. In the UK, 68% of people are fully vaccinated.

  • Life is returning to normal in both places – but in Nigeria, most people must make do without the vaccine.

  • There’s a growing push to speed up vaccine access in poor countries.

I got my first COVID-19 vaccine shot in Nigeria in September.

I arrived at the health center at 5 in the morning and waited in line for hours. When it was finally my turn, the center was so packed with people that I had to stand up while getting my shot. Still, I considered myself lucky, since the day’s supply often runs out.

A couple of weeks later, I was in the UK.

On Oct. 1, I strolled into an empty walk-in vaccination site and got my second dose. There was no registration system to navigate, no wait, and no risk that the center would run out of vaccine shots.

The two experiences were totally different and offered a stark illustration of how uneven the path out of this now two-year-long epidemic has been for those in Western countries versus places like West Africa.

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The author, Paul Adepoju (left), got his first Covid vaccine shot in Nigeria. The center was so crowded that there was no room to sit down. 

A hand holds up a vaccination card with empty chairs in the background. The author got his second shot at Turreff Hall, a UK vaccination site in the town of Donnington. Paul Adepoju

In Nigeria, a country of 200 million people, just over 7 million vaccine doses have been administered, according to the World Health Organization. The most progress has been made in Lagos, a city that’s home to over 21 million people, where nearly 474,000 residents have been fully vaccinated.

In the UK, around three quarters of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 68% are fully vaccinated. A booster shot is already available to those who qualify.

Thanks to the large number of fully vaccinated individuals across America, the UK, and other countries that have more than enough doses to vaccinate all their residents, stadiums, nightclubs, schools, comedy clubs, churches and others are returning to normal. Even as mask and vaccine mandates are still polarizing, the vaccine is available at supermarkets and health centers to whoever wants it.

The picture is very different in Nigeria, where vaccine doses have been trickling in from the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility. Things are largely back to normal – mostly because people don’t have much of a choice. In January, the World Bank predicted that the pandemic will contribute to 10.9 million more Nigerians entering poverty in the next year.

Nigeria has said that a vaccination will soon be mandatory for civil servants. Schools have resumed full in-person classes. Tightly packed churches are also holding multiple services weekly and wedding parties are fully back at venues nationwide without vaccine requirements.

Meanwhile, people are still dying of COVID in Nigeria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 207,979 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 2,756 deaths. (That’s also the case in the UK, where officials just announced 45,066 new COVID cases and 157 additional deaths.)

But due to inadequate, and the high cost, of testing, Nigeria’s numbers likely mask the true scale of the pandemic.

On October 14, the WHO announced that six in seven COVID-19 infections go undetected in Africa.

“With limited testing, we’re still flying blind in far too many communities in Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. “Most tests are carried out on people with symptoms, but much of the transmission is driven by asymptomatic people, so what we see could just be the tip of the iceberg.”

A long, stressful wait

In Ibadan, Nigeria’s third-largest city, the Alegongo Primary Healthcare Center opens at 9am. People begin lining up at around 5 in the morning, hopeful that they will get a COVID vaccine. The whole process might take five hours.

Until early September, the center said they could only administer 50 shots a day, and only to people over the age of 18. On most days, if you arrived after 6:30 in the morning, you would be out of luck and would have to try again another day. Now, the center has about 100 doses per day to give out.

A row of people, some masked and some not, sit on a bench as others stand nearby.

The Alegongo Primary Healthcare Center in In Ibadan, Nigeria, where the author got his first vaccine shot. Paul Adepoju

Taiwo Ilori, a middle-aged businessman who I met on line, said it had taken him three tries to get his elderly parents vaccinated, and only then did he try himself.

It’s not enough to simply show up. If you want a vaccine, you must first sign up on the vaccination registration portal. There’s no choice as to which vaccine you will get.

Health workers on night shifts at the center are often saddled with the task of arranging people on the queue and trying to enforce social distancing. Meanwhile, the facility also provides emergency services, routine care for illnesses like malaria and typhoid, care of pregnant women, and immunization shots.

In my case, and from what I’ve heard from others, there was no information given about possible side effects, how the vaccine works, or post-vaccine shot monitoring.

“It is very calm here”

Turreff Hall in Donnington, a UK city 120 miles northwest of London, has been serving as a COVID-19 vaccination center for the area. Here, over 70% of people aged 12 and over have been fully vaccinated. In some age groups, more than 97% have been fully vaccinated.

It has been very easy to get vaccinated at the historic hall, which was built during the Second World War by the American army. You can show up anytime between 9am and 4pm.

A protest against Covid-19 vaccine patents on October 12, 2021 in London. Rob Pinney/Getty Images

When I visited at around 12:40pm on Oct. 1 – it happened to be Nigeria’s Independence Day – I found an open space with empty chairs that were spaced a socially-distanced length apart.

The employees running the site told me that since most everyone in the area had been vaccinated, only a few people, especially visitors and foreigners, now visit for the shots. When locals show up, it’s mostly those that qualify for booster doses.

“It is very calm here these days even though we have sufficient vaccine doses,” one of the officials said.

Right away, I was given my vaccination shot and told about possible side-effects. Afterwards, I was told to wait for 15 minutes in one of the chairs in case I experienced any post-vaccination complications.

I got the Pfizer vaccine, although the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines were also available at different sites nearby.

‘Ignoring a whole continent’

From early September, when universities prepared to begin their fall semester, there’s been a surge in Nigerian students travelling to the UK, as well as confusion around the vaccination rules.

Since February, anyone arriving from Nigeria and other African countries – even if they were fully vaccinated – was required to show a negative COVID test before boarding a UK-bound airplane, and then isolate for 10 days upon arrival and submit to another two COVID tests.

This week the UK government announced that fully-vaccinated travelers from Nigeria would no longer be required to self-isolate or take multiple COVID tests.

Two men walk past a billboard that says "No Card / No Entry"

Pedestrians walk past a billboard in Benin City in southern Nigeria on Sept. 16, 2021. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

The UK estimates that around 190,000 people born in Nigeria live in the UK, including around 10,000 university students.

“I was fully vaccinated before I came to the UK but it was very embarrassing to find out that the vaccination I received meant nothing to officials here,” a Nigerian student in Birmingham, who asked not to be referred to by name, told me. During her quarantine, she said, she received a check-in visit from the UK’s National Health Service. “At some point they indirectly threatened me when they said a Nigerian woman and her two kids were deported because they were not at home when the officials visited their address.”

At the recently held General Assembly of the United Nations, several African leaders urged countries like the UK to urgently stop vaccine hoarding and share with African countries.

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo noted that around 900 million people in Africa need to be vaccinated in order to get to a level of vaccine coverage that the UK and other Western countries have attained.

This week, the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told CNN that Western countries should delay administering booster shots until people around the world have access to the vaccine.

“To start boosters is really the worst we can do as a global community,” he said. “It is unjust and also unfair because we will not stop the pandemic by ignoring a whole continent, and the continent that doesn’t have any manufacturing capacity of other means.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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COVOD-19

U.S. issues ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory for eight African countries

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department on Saturday advised against travel to eight southern African countries after the White House announced new travel restrictions in response to a new COVID-19 variant.

The CDC raised its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High” for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana while the State Department issued parallel “Do Not Travel” advisories Saturday. On Monday, the CDC had lowered its COVID-19 travel advisory for South Africa to “Level 1: Low” from “Level 3: High”

Of the eight countries, only Botswana was previously listed as “Level 4.”

Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants of the disease, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains. It could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it.

The discovery of the variant has sparked global concern, a wave of travel bans or curbs and a sell-off on financial markets on Friday as investors worried that Omicron could stall a global recovery from the nearly two-year pandemic.

The new variant prompted the White House to announce Friday it would bar nearly all foreign nationals who have been in any of eight countries within the last 14 days from flying to the United States effective Monday at 12:01 a.m. ET (0500 GMT). Travelers on flights that depart before that time will be allowed to land in the United States. But foreign nationals must be vaccinated and have tested negative within three days.

Britain detected two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday, even as Australia and other countries joined nations imposing restrictions on travel from southern Africa in an effort to stop its spread.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

A U.S. official told Reuters Friday the Biden administration could also add other countries to the travel curb list if the variant spreads. The United States only lifted travel restrictions on South Africa and 32 other countries on Nov. 8.

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COVOD-19

New York Declares State Of Emergency To Hike Hospital Capacity Ahead Of Omicron Variant

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Friday declared a state of emergency aimed at increasing hospital capacity and addressing medical staffing shortages as the nation braces for the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The new protocols will take effect Dec. 3 and the order will remain in place at least until Jan. 15, when it will be reassessed.

The emergency declaration will allow the state Department of Health to limit nonessential and nonurgent hospital procedures in situations where a hospital has less than 10% staffed bed capacity.

The order will also expand state purchasing capability to obtain emergency medical supplies.

“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Hochul said.

“In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months,” the governor said.

“The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic. I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated,” she added.

President Joe Biden announced Friday that travel to the U.S. from South Africa and seven other countries in the region would be restricted beginning Monday.

The World Health Organization announced Friday that the highly transmissible omicron variant has a “large number of mutations,” including some that are “concerning.”

It has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, Israel and Hong Kong. The first European case has been identified in Belgium.

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COVOD-19

Six Million Nigerians May Be Pushed Into Poverty-Report

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The World Bank said in its latest report titled ‘COVID-19 in Nigeria: Frontline Data and Pathways for Policy’ that additional six million Nigerians may be pushed into poverty due to the increase in food prices.

The World Bank lamented that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have brought Nigerian households’ food security under threat, and therefore, called on the government’s attention for short-term policies to support welfare.

The report reads: “The rise in prices witnessed between June 2020 and June 2021 alone could push another six million Nigerians into poverty, with urban areas being disproportionately affected. This underscores the need for short-term policies to support welfare.”

“In 2018/19, about 16 percent of poor Nigerians were urban dwellers. Yet among those who would be newly impoverished by the increase in food prices between June 2020 and June 2021, around 27 percent would be from urban areas.

“Nevertheless, poverty in Nigeria is set to remain a primarily rural phenomenon, with or without rising food prices.”

The report said that coverage of social protection programs remained low throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

It stated that between March 2020 and March 2021, just four percent of households received support in the form of cash from the federal, state, or local government.

The report further noted that while many schools have reopened across Nigeria, learning that was lost during the COVID-19 crisis still needs to be recouped and some children have not returned to school.

Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank country director for Nigeria, said “The COVID-19 crisis has provided a wake-up call to address the long-standing structural challenges that could constrain the government’s ambition to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.”

“There is no time like the present for the country to prepare for future climate and conflict shocks and seize the promise of its young population to lay strong foundations for inclusive growth,”.

In June, the World Bank had said an estimated 7 million Nigerians were pushed into poverty in 2020 due to rising prices alone without considering the direct impacts of COVID-19.

The report examined the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on human capital, livelihoods, and welfare of Nigerian households, using the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey (NLPS).

The NLPS represents a successful collaboration between the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the data production and methods team at the World Bank.

“The simple simulations suggest that the share of Nigerians living below the national poverty line could have increased from 40.1 per cent to 42.8 per cent due to the food price inflation witnessed between June 2020 and June 2021.

“About 5.6 million additional Nigerians would be living in poverty. While food price inflation would decrease purchasing power and raise poverty across Nigeria, it appears that urban areas could be disproportionately affected.

This figure, the World Bank said, was significantly below what would be needed to counteract the widening and deepening of poverty brought about by the crisis.

The report suggested three immediate priorities that could provide the bedrock for recovery to include “First, rolling out vaccines quickly and equitably should reduce the direct health threat posed by the virus,” the report reads.

“Second, it will be essential to help children remediate the learning losses incurred during the pandemic – by getting them back to school or by finding low-tech remote solutions that work for the poor where this is not possible.

“Third, expanding social protection could provide short-term relief for the welfare losses Nigerian households are currently facing.”

 

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