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Nigeria aims to get 70 million J&J COVID-19 vaccines through African Union

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By Alexis Akwagyiram

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria hopes to receive up to 70 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this year through the African Union (AU), its primary healthcare chief told Reuters, amid concerns about delayed deliveries of AstraZeneca shots.

Rolling out vaccines in developing nations such as Nigeria, whose 200 million-strong population is Africa’s biggest, is seen as key to stemming the global spread of the new coronavirus.

Nigeria, which has recorded 2,049 deaths from COVID-19 and began vaccinations this month, plans to inoculate 40% of its people this year and another 30% in 2022.

Last week, India – the world’s biggest vaccine maker – said it would prioritise domestic inoculations, prompting fears of delays in the export of AstraZeneca doses under the World Health Organization (WHO)-backed COVAX scheme to supply vaccines to poorer countries.

In a separate development, Johnson & Johnson on Monday said it will supply the AU with up to 400 million doses of its single-dose vaccine beginning in the third quarter.

Faisal Shuaib, who heads Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency, told Reuters that Nigeria expects to initially receive 30 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in July through the AU.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to get up to 70 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson this year. This is yet to be finalised but these are some of the advanced conversations that are going on between Nigeria and the African Union,” he said during an interview in the capital, Abuja.

Nigeria previously said it had applied for 41 million doses of vaccines through the AU, comprising of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson shots. But Shuaib said the proportion of AstraZenca doses was likely to be reduced by the delays.

“Some of the allocations that we were supposed to get for the AstraZeneca will be replaced by the Johnson and Johnson,” he said, adding that this was yet to be finalised.

Germany has from Wednesday restricted the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to those aged 60 and above as it investigates a small number of reports of rare blood clotting in people who got the vaccine. And Canada on Monday said it would not offer the shots to people under 55.

Global regulators have said the shot is safe and effective.

Shuaib said there was no evidence of adverse side effects in Nigeria and the AstraZeneca vaccine would continue to be used for eligible people aged 18 and above.

Nigeria’s finance minister has said the country will draw up a supplementary budget to cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccinations, for which no provision was made in the 2021 finance bill adopted in December.

Shuaib said he expected the supplementary budget to be presented to lawmakers within the next two weeks.

 

(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Where Canadians can travel abroad during COVID-19 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
While Canada continues to advise against all non-essential travel outside the country, there are plenty of countries accepting Canadian travellers with limited COVID-19 restrictions.

Most countries have COVID-19 restrictions in place for foreign travellers, Mexico and Colombia are two exceptions to this. Both of those countries require a travel form to be filled out prior to arrival but have no other COVID-19 restrictions in place for Canadian travellers.

Canada is currently restricting all travel to 16 countries. Nations on that list include Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Myanmar and Somalia; more details can be found here.

EUROPE

European Union member nations began accepting Canadian travellers in July. Travellers headed to most European countries will require a negative PCR test and proof of vaccination to avoid mandatory quarantine. Non-vaccinated travellers will need a negative PCR test and to quarantine for 10 to 14 days depending on the country being visited. France, the U.K., Sweden, Germany, and Austria require negative tests but are not asking Canadians to quarantine upon arrival regardless of vaccination status.

Many European countries welcoming Canadian travellers are accepting those who had mixed-and-matched vaccines as long as the vaccines were approved for use by the EU health authority or the World Health Organization (WHO). What’s considered fully vaccinated can depend on the country, so it is always best to check government websites for most up-to-date information, but currently most EU countries are accepting mixing of AstraZeneca and mRNA doses, as well as a mixing of mRNA doses.

UNITED STATES

Currently, the United States doesn’t have any vaccine requirements for travel. The land border is currently closed to non-essential travel from Canadians, but they are able to fly into the country. Canadians travelling to the U.S. from abroad must be aware of additional restrictions in place. Canadians will not be allowed to travel to the U.S. if they have travelled to India, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, or most European countries in the 14 days prior.

The land border restrictions for Canadians travelling to the U.S. are in place until Sept. 21 and may be extended. American travellers have been able to use the land border to enter Canada since Aug. 9 with proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival.

LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES

Most Latin and Caribbean countries are also accepting Canadians, but travel requirements vary. Some countries will need a completed negative COVID-19 test before arrival while others will do testing upon arrival. Other countries require vaccination, and some offer COVID-19 certified accommodations to control spread.

Turks and Caicos Islands requires full vaccination and a negative test for travel to the country. They accept mix-and-match doses between mRNA and adenovector vaccines, and between mRNA doses.

Canadians travelling to Jamaica will need to provide a negative test. Travellers will need to fill out an online application within seven days prior to travel and wait for approval before entering the country.

Similarly, Saint Lucia doesn’t require vaccination for entry, but travellers must have a negative PCR test at least five days prior to visiting the country. Saint Lucia has set up special accommodations to help keep COVID-19 from spreading on the island by keeping tourists in one area during their quarantine period. For those who are fully vaccinated, they can come and go from these accommodations as they please; for partially or non-vaccinated travellers, there are restrictions of where they can travel and which excursions they can participate in at certified resorts.

Bermuda will require a negative test, and unvaccinated travellers will need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

On Aug. 10, Martinique entered a lockdown and is currently not accepting tourists.

It is important to check your destination’s restrictions before setting off as they are regularly updated.

CRUISES

As with other destinations, it is important to keep track of changing requirements on cruise ships. Currently, there are no cruises operating out of Canada, but Canadians can hop on board in other countries.

What is considered fully vaccinated can vary significantly by port and country, so it is important to be aware of vaccination policies while travelling.

Celebrity Cruises departing from most ports in Greece accept mixed mRNA doses, but those leaving from Athens accept mixed doses of AstraZenca and an mRNA vaccine.

Norwegian Cruise Line requires passengers to be fully vaccinated with a single brand of vaccine.

All cruises departing U.S. ports require that passengers be vaccinated by the CDC’s definition, which does not include mixing and matching AstraZeneca and an mRNA dose.

WHO CAN TRAVEL TO CANADA

Canada has currently suspended flights from India and Morocco. Otherwise, travellers entering the country must provide a negative molecular test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival, and provide proof of vaccination authorized for use in Canada to avoid a 14 day stay in quarantine.

Travellers are required to use the ArriveCAN app to upload their proof of vaccination.

There is no guarantee that travellers to Canada will be accepted at the border.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel insurance is always beneficial in the event travellers need medical assistance abroad, and insurance companies are now providing COVID-19 specific travel insurance.

Manulife has a pandemic travel plan and WestJet is offering complimentary COVID-19 travel insurance to travellers using their services.

Since Canada is currently advising against all non-essential travel abroad, it is best to check insurance policies to see if they will cover any COVID-19 related issues that may happen while travelling. Some insurance companies, such as TD Insurance, have coverage exemptions in place where Canadians have been advised to avoid travel.

Travel insurance coverage can also be dependent on the vaccination status of the traveller, one of Manulife’s travel insurance plans does not cover any COVID-19 related expenses for unvaccinated travellers.  

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca

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The latest

The U.S. government will spend $470 million US to learn more about long COVID-19, its causes and potential treatments.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the plans Wednesday with a grant awarded to New York University and a goal of enrolling up to 40,000 adults and children nationwide. The effort, dubbed “Recover,” will involve researchers at more than 30 U.S. institutions.

“This is being taken with the greatest seriousness. at a scale that has not really been attempted with something like this,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins at a briefing Wednesday.

Collins said it’s estimated 10 to 30 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 may develop persistent, new or recurring symptoms that can last months or perhaps years.

Long COVID is an umbrella term for symptoms that linger, recur and show up for the first time four weeks or more after an initial infection. It also includes heart inflammation and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can occur in children after a COVID-19 infection.

Pain, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, chronic coughs and sleep problems are among the reported symptoms of long COVID. Possible causes include the virus lingering in tissues and organs or overstimulating the immune system.

The announcement came as the World Health Organization said there were about four million coronavirus cases reported globally last week, marking the first major drop in new infections in more than two months. In recent weeks, there have been about 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases.

In its weekly update released on Tuesday, the UN health agency said every region in the world saw a drop in COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week.

Houston Fire Department paramedics transport a man suffering from breathing difficulties to a hospital on Tuesday. Harris County in Texas continues to see a large number of COVID-19 hospitalizations due to the delta variant surge in the state. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Although the worldwide number of deaths decreased to about 62,000, with the sharpest decline in Southeast Asia, there was a seven per cent increase in deaths in Africa. According to the weekly report from WHO, the highest numbers of cases were seen in:

  • The United States, with 1,034,836 new cases — a decrease of roughly 20 per cent from a week earlier.
  • The United Kingdom, with 256,051 new cases — a five per cent increase.
  • India, with 248 248 new cases — a 15 per cent decrease. 
  • Iran, with 172 030 new cases —  a 17 per cent decrease.
  • Turkey, with 158 236 new cases — a six per cent increase.

According to the weekly update, the delta variant had been identified in 180 countries as of Tuesday.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 3:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | New Brunswick’s chief medical officer expresses frustration over stalled vaccination rates: 

New Brunswick’s top doctor frustrated over stalled vaccination rates

4 hours ago

New Brunsick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, makes a direct appeal to the public to protect the more vulnerable, children and the health care system and encourage others to get vaccinated. Sounding frustrated, Russell said the vast majority of people in the province sick with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated. 2:43


What’s happening around the world

A medical worker collects a swab from a resident during mass testing amid new cases of COVID-19 in Putian, in China’s Fujian province. (cnsphoto/Reuters)

As of early Wednesday evening, more than 226.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the coronavirus tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China is imposing lockdowns and ordering mass testing in cities along its east coast amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. Checks have been set up in toll stations around the city of Putian in Fujian province, with a dozen of them closed entirely. The nearby cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou have also restricted travel as the delta variant spreads through the region.

Cambodia will launch a campaign Friday to begin giving COVID-19 vaccinations to children aged six to 11. Prime Minister Hun Sen is also considering having children aged 3 to 5 be vaccinated soon. Cambodia began vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds at the start of August. 

Nearly 72 per cent of Cambodia’s almost 17 million people have received at least one COVID-19 shot since vaccinations began in February, the majority being China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.

In the Americas, Mexico will send vaccines to Nicaragua in September, the country’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, in a rare sign of international engagement with the administration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

In Africa, after uncertainty about whether the coronavirus pandemic would force South Africa to postpone local government elections, the courts have ruled the vote should move ahead. South Africa’s courts ruled this month the Independent Electoral Commission should hold the polls on Nov. 1, despite concerns about political rallies spreading the disease.

South Africa has recorded 2,640 new infections and 125 deaths in the last 24 hours. The nation accounts for more than 35 per cent of coronavirus infections in Africa, with 2.8 million confirmed cases and 85,002 confirmed deaths.

In Europe, the Dutch government is easing restrictions and will introduce a “corona” pass showing proof of vaccination to go to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events.

Meanwhile, health-care workers in France face suspension from their jobs starting Wednesday if they haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19. With about 300,000 workers still not vaccinated, some hospitals fear staff shortages will add to their strain.

In the Middle East, Iran on Tuesday reported 22,329 new cases of COVID-19 and 408 additional deaths.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

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Gymnasts Biles, Maroney demand justice in botched FBI sex abuse probe

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) –Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney on Wednesday told U.S. lawmakers she feels betrayed by FBI agents, after they failed to investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, despite her telling them he had sexually abused her.

FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate panel that the actions of the agents who botched the investigation are inexcusable, and he announced that one of the agents “no longer works for the bureau in any capacity.”

“I’m deeply and profoundly sorry,” Wray said.

Maroney is one of four athletes, along with Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee as it probes the FBI’s mishandling of the investigation.

Maroney recalled how in 2015 she spent three hours on the phone telling the FBI the details of her story that her own mother had not even heard, including accounts of sexual abuse she endured during the Olympic games in London by Nassar, whom she described as “more of a pedophile” than he was a doctor.

It was not until July of this year, however, that she said the Justice Department inspector general revealed in a scathing report  what the FBI actually did with the information she provided: Failing to document it for a year and a half, and misrepresenting what she told them about her experiences.

“Not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said, with anger in her voice.

Wednesday’s hearing comes after the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz in July issued a scathing report https://oig.justice.gov/sites/default/files/reports/21-093.pdf which blasted the FBI for botching its investigation https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-justice-watchdog-release-report-into-fbi-probe-ex-usa-gymnastics-doctor-2021-07-14 in a series of errors that allowed the abuse to continue for months.

Several of the gymnasts said they were furious that the FBI failed to immediately interview them about the abuse after they had reported it. Once the FBI finally did contact them, they said the agents tried to downplay the severity of the abuse.

“I remember sitting with the FBI agent and him trying to convince me that it wasn’t that bad,” Raisman said.

“It’s taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, that it does matter.”

Horowitz also appeared on Wednesday along with Wray.

Horowitz said that the now-fired agent who falsified Maroney’s statement “could have actually jeopardized the criminal investigation by providing false information that could have bolstered Nassar’s defense.”

The FBI declined to name the fired agent, but Senator Richard Blumenthal identified him as Michael Langeman.

Langeman served as a supervisory special agent in Indianapolis, where he led a task force that investigated child sexual exploitation, according to an interview he gave to a local podcast in 2018.

Reuters could not immediately reach Langeman for comment.

The FBI’s investigation into Nassar started in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office.

That office, then led by Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott, did not formally open an investigation. The FBI only interviewed one witness months later, in September 2015, and failed to formally document that interview in an official report known as a “302” until February 2017 – well after the FBI had arrested Nassar on charges of possessing sexually explicit images of children in December 2016.

When the interview was finally documented in 2017 by an unnamed supervisory special agent, the report was filled with “materially false information and omitted material information,” Horowitz’s report determined.

Abbott, who retired from the FBI in 2018, also violated the FBI’s conflict of interest policy by discussing a possible job with the U.S. Olympic Committee while he was involved with the Nassar investigation.

As the FBI delayed its probe, Nassar went on to abuse more victims. At one point in Wednesday’s hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal asked all four athletes whether they knew of victims who were abused after the July 2015 disclosure to the FBI.

“Yes,” all four of them said.

Neither Abbott nor the other unnamed supervisory special agent who botched the Nassar probe were prosecuted for their actions.

Wray said the case was presented twice for possible prosecution and declined, but he deferred to federal prosecutors to explain their reasoning.

“We have been failed and we deserve answers,” Biles said on Wednesday.

Raisman, meanwhile, expressed frustrations that more has not been done to investigate USA Gymnastics or the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee for covering up Nassar’s abuse for years.

“Why did none of these organizations warn anyone? USAG and USOPC have a long history of enabling abuse by turning a blind eye. Both organizations knew of Nassar’s abuse, long before it became public,” she said.

In a statement, the USOPC said it remains “completely dedicated to the safety and well-being” of its athletes, and it has implemented reforms after hiring a law firm to conduct an independent investigation.

USA Gymnastics did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Nassar has been found guilty in three separate cases, with one of the prison sentences running up to 175 years. Prosecutors have estimated he sexually assaulted hundreds of women and girls.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)

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