US Donates 17 Million J&J Doses to African Union

The United States is donating 17 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union, bringing the total American donation to the continent to 67 million doses.The U.S. previously donated 50 million doses to the AU, whi…

The United States is donating 17 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union, bringing the total American donation to the continent to 67 million doses.

The U.S. previously donated 50 million doses to the AU, which has 55 member states, including some of the world’s poorest nations. The new tranche of 17 million will be delivered to the African Union in the “coming weeks,” the White House said in a statement Thursday.

“We’re continuing our shared fight against COVID,” Biden said Thursday, during a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. “The United States, we’ve donated 2.8 million doses of vaccine to Kenya as part of 50 million doses we’ve donated to the African Union. And I’m proud to announce that today, that we’re making additional, historic, one-time donation and 17 more million doses of the J&J vaccine to the AU.”

Kenyatta said the United States “has done its best to step up, in terms of not only helping Kenya, but with the African continent, in general, with regard to access to vaccines.”

The White House said it chose the one-dose vaccine for its unique advantages.

“(The) J&J vaccine is in high demand and short supply in Africa and elsewhere around the world,” the White House said. “Single-dose administration, long shelf life and easy cold chain make this vaccine an asset to global vaccine programs.”

That vaccine has not been as popular in the U.S. as its two-dose counterparts.

Any new vaccines are likely to be welcomed, after the World Health Organization said Thursday that its assessment found that six out of seven COVID-19 infections are not being detected on the African continent. WHO estimates there are 59 million cases in Africa — far more than the reported number of cases, which stands at 8 million.

But health advocates say more needs to be done.

“Speed matters as we fight this pandemic, and Africa urgently needs more doses to stem the overwhelming impacts of COVID-19. This donation is another example of U.S. leadership on the global response and is a step in the right direction in closing the vaccine access gap,” said Sarah Swinehart, senior communications director for North America at the ONE Campaign, a group that advocates to address extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

“As we continue to work towards the goal of getting 70% of the world vaccinated, all wealthy countries must be bolder and more ambitious. This will require more doses and more money to get those doses into arms.”

The White House has countered criticism over its push for already vaccinated Americans to receive boosters when many people across the planet have yet to receive a single dose.

“With this donation, the U.S. will be giving away over half of the J&J vaccines purchased by the U.S. for its domestic program,” it said in Thursday’s statement.

The announcement coincided with Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with an African leader. Kenyatta met with Biden in the Oval Office to discuss a range of topics, including democracy and human rights issues, as well security, accelerating economic growth and addressing climate change.

Source: Voice of America

New Malaria Vaccine to Benefit Hundreds of Thousands of African Children

The World Health Organization’s endorsement of the world’s first malaria vaccine marks a major advance against the mosquito-borne illness, which kills some 265,000 children in Africa annually.Bitrus Yusuf pours syrup into a measuring cup to give to his…

The World Health Organization’s endorsement of the world’s first malaria vaccine marks a major advance against the mosquito-borne illness, which kills some 265,000 children in Africa annually.

Bitrus Yusuf pours syrup into a measuring cup to give to his three-year-old daughter and grandson who are sick with malaria.

He said the mosquito-borne parasite that causes the illness is all too common at this Abuja camp for internally displaced people where they live.

“We went to bed, all was well, everybody was well,” Yusuf said. “But toward midnight I heard him shivering. As I touched his body (it was) very hot, so I woke him up.”

The World Health Organization said some 94% of malaria cases and deaths worldwide occur in Africa, and that Nigeria accounts for a quarter of the fatalities. The U.N. agency said children under the age of five and pregnant women are the most affected.

Last week, the global health body announced its approval for the rollout of the world’s first malaria vaccine, Mosquirix. The vaccine, made by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, has been in development for more than three decades.

The WHO said Mosquirix could potentially change the course of public health history.

Walter Kazadi Mulombo is the WHO representative in Nigeria.

“You know before the vaccine could be introduced in the country, it has to be cleared by NAFDAC for the case of Nigeria and there are steps to be taken for the country to approve the vaccine so that introduction can start,” Mulombo said.

NAFDAC refers to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Nigeria.

During a large-scale pilot program that began in 2019, some 2.3 million doses of the vaccine were administered to children in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana.

The WHO said when rolled out, the vaccine could help prevent up to four in 10 cases of malaria.

But Mulombo warns there could be supply problems at first.

“There may be some supply issues so it may not be in the quantity we require to reach all those that we need to reach,” Mulombo said. “But we understand that GSK, the manufacturer, is working already with some African countries to decentralize production.”

Abuja Primary Health Board official, Ndaeyo Iwot, said the new vaccine does not eliminate the need for taking other malaria preventive measures.

“If you don’t combine it with sleeping under insecticide treated nets and also taking care of your environment, where the vectors can breed, then you’re more likely to continue to have the scourge of malaria in this country,” Iwot said.

GlaxoSmithKline said it will manufacture about 15 million doses of the vaccine yearly, but experts say at least 50 to 100 million doses are needed every year in areas with moderate to high transmission.

In the meantime, Nigerian parents like Yusuf said they are hoping to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.

Source: Voice of America

Pan African Film Festival Begins in Burkina Faso

The Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou returns to Burkina Faso this weekend after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.One Burkinabe director, who has made a film documenting a nursery for the infants of sex workers, talks about …

The Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou returns to Burkina Faso this weekend after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One Burkinabe director, who has made a film documenting a nursery for the infants of sex workers, talks about the importance of telling African stories through cinema.

Moumouni Sanou is a documentary film director from Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city.

In 2019, he made a film, which is being screened at The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, or FESPACO.

Night Nursery follows the story of an older woman who runs a nighttime home for sex workers’ children in Bobo Dioulasso.

Sanou said he wants Night Nursery to humanize sex workers.

Sanou said the idea was to show a different side to sex workers, which is very rarely seen. In Burkina Faso and in the rest of Africa this profession is frowned upon, he said. “But it is also the oldest profession in the world. When we see these girls, people say they are bad people because they are sex workers,” he adds.

FESPACO has been running since 1969 and this year will feature films from around 30 African countries in its official selection. Cinema professionals and cinephiles travel from all over Africa and beyond to attend.

“FESPACO is one of the biggest African film festivals, and for me to be selected and represent Burkina Faso in the documentary film section will mean this film will be seen by the whole world, not just by Africans,” Sanou said.

Ardiouma Soma, the director of FESPACO, says that this year, the event will also host the African International Film & TV Market — known as MICA — for the first time.

Soma said, because this year the MICA will be held at FESPACO they have invited distributors, whose names he prefers not to mention, to Ouagadougou. He said the market will allow them to find new projects that are in post-production and also films that are already finished but not scheduled for FESPACO, so that they can buy them for their own platforms.

Last year, FESPACO, which usually happens every two years, was cancelled due to COVID-19. Burkina Faso is also in the middle of a conflict with terrorist groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Burkina Faso’s culture minister, Élise Foniyama Ilboudo Thiombiano, said it is important the festival goes on.

She said it’s a challenge for Burkinabè to continue to be able to keep the festival going every two years. But it is through cinema we can see the vision of Africans and the people who live on this continent, she adds. She points out that her predecessors all made sure FESPACO remained a focal point for Africa and she intends to do the same.

As for Sanou, he is hoping Night Nursery could receive an award, and the recognition it needs to win a wide audience.

Source: Voice of America