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Brazil COVID Crisis Careens Out of Control

Brazil COVID Crisis Careens Out of Control

March 28 (EIRNS) – Numerous Brazilian medical and other authorities are sounding the alarm that the COVID pandemic in Brazil is careening out of the control, threatening not only the country but the entire planet. At present, one in every four COVID deaths worldwide is occurring in Brazil. “Before, the risk factor to dying from Covid-19 was being older, having some co-morbidity,” said Domingos Alves, a professor of medicine who’s part of a national monitoring group. “Now, the risk is being Brazilian,” Bloomberg reported.

The mortality rate in Brazil has risen from 2% at the end of last year to 3.1% in mid March, according to Fiocruz, one of the country’s leading R&D centers in epidemiology. That is more than a 50% increase in less than three months. Only 7% of the population have received a vaccine shot; 2% are fully vaccinated. More than 300,000 Brazilians have died of Covid to date; some experts expect the half-million mark to be hit by June, and for Brazil to surpass the U.S. in deaths by the end of the year – a grim achievement.

An alarming new trend is a sharp rise in the number and proportion of younger Brazilians who are getting sick and dying from Covid – this in a country that is largely young. According to official statistics, from Jan. 1 to mid March the rate of new cases among those aged 30 to 59 rose by nearly twice the national average of 316%. Deaths in those age groups jumped by at least 317%, compared with 223% for Brazil as a whole.

Scientists are still trying to figure out why that is happening. One theory is that younger patients wait longer to seek health care and are sicker when they arrive at the hospital. Another factor may relate to the new variants appearing in Brazil. Bloomberg cited Jaques Sztajnbok, who helps run the ICU at Sao Paulo’s Emílio Ribas hospital, one of Brazil’s main facilities for infectious diseases, saying that patients are largely getting sick with the variant that first appeared in the Amazonian city of Manaus or the U.K. one, both of which are more contagious than the original strain.

“Fernando Brum, a director at Sorocaba’s Santa Casa hospital [near Sao Paulo], said the mutation of the virus into a much more contagious version with a viral load that makes people sick in a faster and more aggressive way has meant young people have gone from mostly asymptomatic cases to being gravely affected… `The intensive care unit is constantly and uninterruptedly occupied,’ he [Brum] said. Patients in their 30s make up at least half of those beds, and their average time spent in the hospital has tripled from last year. It has come down recently for a grim reason — patients are dying more quickly.”

The country’s health system is on the brink of total collapse. Miguel Nicolelis, professor of Neurobiology at Duke University who advised several Brazilian governors and mayors on pandemic control, told AP: “We have surpassed levels never imagined for a country with a public health care system, a history of efficient immunization campaigns and health workers who are second to none in the world. The next stage is the health system collapse.”

Brazil’s state-run science and technology institute, Fiocruz, on Tuesday called for a 14-day lockdown to reduce transmission by 40%. “We need to open our eyes and understand this is no joke,” Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes said in a recorded message on the eve of a 10-day shutdown in that city. “People are dying and, if everything continues as is, nothing is done, God only knows what could happen. No one knows this disease’s limit. No one knows how many variants could emerge.”


China Announces Two Billion COVID-19 Vaccines to Be Exported in 2021

China Announces Two Billion COVID-19 Vaccines to Be Exported in 2021

Aug. 6 (EIRNS)–President Xi Jinping announced today that China will export two billion COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. The massive expansion of production capacity this year has allowed China to export between 600 to 750 million doses so far, while also applying over 1.7 billion doses within China. The track record of Sinovac and Sinopharm so far indicates that they will produce almost 5 billion doses this year, and Tao Lina, a vaccine expert in Shanghai confirms this. Otherwise, China is presently vaccinating their population at the rate of 17.9 million shots a day, which is seven times the rate of the European Union, and 30 times that of the United States.

President Xi sent a written message today to the International Forum on Covid-19 Vaccine Cooperation, hosted by China Central Television and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang-Yi. He described the vaccine as a “global public good,” and stressed common action on world health as part of building a community with a shared future for mankind. He recognized the problem with the resurgences of the coronavirus allowing for the proliferation of mutations and variant strains. Besides exporting vaccines, he described China’s work with countries to develop and produce vaccines, with joint production already begun in the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan and Mexico — a new capacity of over 200 million doses, which needs further expansion.


World Health Organization: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout To Accelerate in Africa

World Health Organization: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout To Accelerate in Africa

Aug. 5, 2021 (EIRNS) – A World Health Organization article published in Consortium News July 30 reports on the 520 million vaccine doses that will be shipped to Africa by the end of 2021 by COVAX. Can they be administered in that 4-plus-month time frame by the public health systems of the African countries? That is a vital question.

Ethiopian biologist Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said that poorer countries worldwide have administered, on average, 1.5 shots per 100 people, while developed countries have administered 100 shots for 100 people, on average.

Up to the present, only 79 million COVID doses have arrived in Africa, and 21 million people, or just (1.6 percent) of Africa’s population are fully vaccinated.


COVID-19: Brazil Now “Threat to Global Public Health”

“Brazil Now Represents a Threat to Global Public Health”: Brazilian Epidemiologist

March 25 (EIRNS) — Dr. Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist and Dean at the Federal University of Pelotas in southern Brazil, stated that “Brazil now represents a threat to global public health” that must be urgently addressed by international action. Hallal is the coordinator of Epicovid-19, the largest epidemiological study into the coronavirus in Brazil. Hallal stated that the pandemic is out of control in Brazil, which is now a breeding ground for dangerous new variants. “The virus is circulating so widely in Brazil that it is possible, and I would say likely, that new variants will appear in the near future. We need to stop that urgently,” he said.

Hallal called for an international task force to address the crisis, since the policies of the Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro have brought the country to the brink of collapse. If not, “global efforts to control COVID-19 will be jeopardized,” he said.

An open letter from hundreds of leading financial figures in Brazil, including former ministers and five former presidents of Brazil’s Central Bank, also slammed Bolsonaro’s COVID policy and demanded urgent change. Without ever mentioning Bolsonaro by name, the letter is clear, attacking Brazil’s “top political leadership” which displays “a disdain for science, looks to remedies without evidence of their effectiveness, encourages crowds, and flirts with the anti-vax movement.” They demand a nationally coordinated policy of social distancing, including a national lockdown if necessary.

Bolsonaro is feeling the heat, and has reluctantly agreed to meet with Brazil’s governors – who universally oppose his do-nothing policy and have tried to impose state-by-state measures – and has even promised to start a serious vaccination campaign (so far, less than 7% of Brazilians have had one dose of a vaccine). In over half of the country’s 26 states, the rate of occupancy in ICUs tops 90%. Last Tuesday, daily deaths in the country topped 3,000 for the first time, with 3,251 deaths recorded. Brazil now accounts for one out of every four deaths worldwide from COVID. The biomedical research institution Fiocruz, a week ago reported that Brazil’s public health systems are “living through the worst collapse in history.”

“The situation is very, very concerning,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. “Brazil has to take it seriously.” Dr. Hallal stated: “If we do not have enough vaccines in the next 30 to 45 days, the situation will be terrible — not only for Brazil, but for the rest of the world.”


Putin: Mobilize Science & Industry to Defeat COVID

Putin’s Conference on Defeating COVID-19 by Outflanking the New Strains

Mar. 25 (EIRNS)–Russian President Vladimir Putin held a videoconference earlier this week on the scientific and industrial mobilization needed to expand COVID-19 vaccine production, and to attack the virus. By way of introduction, he said that their Sputnik V vaccine, now approved in 55 countries representing 1.4 billion people, would expand to 2.5 billion people shortly. He celebrated the latest contract with India for production of another 100 million doses, “the news of the day.” Now there are contracts for the production of 1.4 billion doses. For their own population, Russia is aiming for 139.6 million doses and, as of last week, have 40.2 million.

The Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that production is ramping up. April should see 17 million more doses. They also have manufacturing agreements in 10 countries. Further, their new EpiVacCorona vaccine is planned for 11 million doses by July. It is designed to be able to hit a wide array of variants. The Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko reported on a new version of Sputnik V that can be stored easily at non-frozen temperatures (36-46 degrees Fahrenheit), important for far-flung parts of Russia; and a new Sputnik Light, for trials on 12-17 year olds. The concern there was not-so-much about mortality but about possible and unknown long-term damage to children form COVID-19.

The chairman of the board of Pharstandard, Viktor Kharitonin, reported that their ramping up to 200-300 million doses per year involved recruiting Russian exile scientists back to Russia for the war against the virus: “Over 20 percent of our scientists returned from the EU, the United States and Israel at our invitation and are now helping us develop a modern pharmaceutical industry…”

Gamaleya director Alexander Gintsburg highlighted talks last week, headed by Sergei Razov, Russia’s ambassador to Italy, with Italy’s Spallanzani Institute — “a counterpart of ours” in being the national regulatory institute. They agreed to produce a “draft memorandum of cooperation” to work with Spallanzani’s key resource, “the largest collection of newly emerged and isolated strains of COVID-19 pathogens in Europe…” Plasma samples from people vaccinated with Sputnik V are to be tested for “the neutralizing activity of the serum…” Denis Logunov, Gamaleya deputy director, who actually developed the vaccine, explained that, as with the flu virus, we “examine sera screening from vaccinated patient’s reactions to new strains. I consider this very important… We must not miss the important moment when the virus, for one, gets out of control and the existing vaccines may become even potentially ineffective. In terms of science, I consider this prospect the most important.”


China Institutes More Stringent Measures To Combat New COVID Outbreaks

Aug. 4 (EIRNS)—China is experiencing a resurgence of COVID, particularly of the new delta variant, and is implementing more stringent measures to deal with it. Most seem to have developed through imported cases, at the airport in Nanjing and in the south Yunnan province at the Myanmar border. But the provinces of Zhejiang and Henan, where there has been major flooding recently, have also been hit with new cases. The city of Wuhan is also again in the process of conducting nucleic acid testing on its 11 million people in order to avoid a replay of the terrible 2020 outbreak.

The State Council announced on Aug. 3 that COVID-19 prevention and control would now be “the top priority” for local governments. “Airports, harbors and land borders should be closely guarded to prevent imported COVID-19 cases. International travelers and cargo should be strictly separated from spaces where local people can enter,” Sun Chunlan, a member of the Political Bureau said in her comments at the press conference announcing the new measures.

“People that are most prone to infection should be placed in quarantine immediately. Regional investigations targeting close contacts should be completed within 24 hours,” she said. Sun required nationwide scrutiny of in-hospital infection control measures. “Hospitals that fail to meet the standards should carry out rectification or even suspend operations,” she said. There are now four high-risk areas for the COVID outbreak and 150 medium-risk areas. The country has already distributed 1.7 billion doses of the vaccine.


Florida and Texas Governors Stand Up for the Right To Die of COVID

Aug. 4 (EIRNS)—Governors Ron DeSantis (FL) and Greg Abbott (TX) are adopting policies in their states worthy of the Flagellant cult of the 14th century. They have each instituted a statewide ban on mask mandates and they have prohibited school districts from requiring masks in schools. Texas has even started fining teachers who dare to ask their students if they are vaccinated, or ask those who are not to mask. In Florida, counties are being threatened that their funding will be pulled if they issue mask mandates, and already that led to Broward County withdrawing its mask mandate.

As a result of this medieval lunacy, among other causes, one-third of all new COVID cases nationwide come from those two states.

DeSantis has also angrily denounced the suggestion that those who are not vaccinated and not masking or social distancing are responsible for getting sick. He insisted: “In Florida, there will be no lockdowns. There will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions and no mandates.”


28 Nations Participate in China’s Belt and Road Partnership on COVID Vaccines Cooperation

August 3, 2021 (EIRNS)—On June 23 of this year, at the Asia and Pacific High-Level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation, presided over by China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, 28 nations joined in launching the China Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Covid-19 Vaccine Cooperation. The statement announcing this initiative stressed that international cooperation and solidarity are key to fighting the pandemic, that “people and their lives” must be put first, and that no one is safe until everyone is safe. It emphasized that vaccines must be equitably distributed and that there must be “open, fair and non-discriminatory international cooperation on vaccines.”

A number of other recommendations for the BRI vaccine cooperation initiative included facilitating joint vaccine research, development and technological exchanges; promoting partnerships between vaccine producers and developing countries for joint vaccine production, to scale up global production; encouraging regional and multilateral development banks to provide more concessional financing to developing countries for their vaccine procurement and production; and “strengthening Belt and Road cooperation on connectivity to ensure cross-border flows of vaccines.”

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry yesterday, in less than two months the BRI vaccine initiative has yielded impressive results, reaching cooperative agreements with several of the initiative’s 28 co-sponsors on a total of 775 million doses of vaccines, including in the form of concentrates, of which 350 million doses have been delivered. In addition, Chinese companies have started joint production with four co-sponsors of this initiative, whose names were not specified, and are discussing joint production “with other interested countries.” In today’s foreign ministry press conference, spokesman Wang Wenbin reported that China has provided vaccine assistance to over 80 countries and vaccines to 40 countries, also reporting that China is collaborating with other developing nations to mass produce the vaccine. It was also announced today that the World Health Organization has granted emergency use authorization to China’s Sinovac vaccine. (The full initiative statement is detailed here.)

The 28 countries include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Fiji, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.


African Development Bank President: No Economic Justice Without `Vaccine Justice’

Mar. 22 (EIRNS)–Africa needs “global solidarity and vaccine justice,” were the words of African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina on Friday, March 19. Adesina launched the Bank’s {African Economic Outlook 2021} report, and decried the economic effects that the lack of Covid-19 vaccines was having on Africa. The connection of global health with global economic recovery was paramount. With Adesina was economist and Nobel laureate (2001) Joseph Stiglitz, who in addition to endorsing an increased “healthcare defense,” for the continent, also endorsed the idea of “debt restructuring,” a topic first raised by his African host.
            The AfDB president implicitly addressed the idea of global health, saying that “as long as Africans remain unvaccinated, the world will go right back to square one,” something no amount of imperial ‘vaccine passports’ could prevent. “Africa needs to develop its pharmaceutical industry and begin manufacturing,” he said, adding that “the African Development Bank is going to support African countries to do this.”
            Supporting this position, Stiglitz said, “One of the things that some of us have been campaigning for is the suspension of the intellectual property rights related to Covid-19 because {the supply constraint that you describe is at least, to some extent, artificial}… If access to the intellectual property rights were more extensive, there is throughout the emerging markets and developing countries considerable capacity to produce a lot of more vaccines.” [emphasis added]
            Speaking of the debt, Stiglitz noted that “every country has bankruptcy laws, but there’s no bankruptcy law for international debt…. When there’s too much debt, it’s as much the creditor’s problem as the debtor’s problem.” Stiglitz said the G20 debt postponement took place when it seemed the pandemic might only last a few months. “Now … a standstill is not enough.”
He added that it was in the self-interest of advanced countries to make sure that everybody has access to the vaccine and other related medicines. “The longer the disease festers in any part of the world, it can mutate, and one of the things we know is that those mutations are not going to respect borders. The Covid-19 virus doesn’t carry a passport.”
            Other notable African voices that have called for “vaccine justice” for Africa are those of South African President and recent African Union chair Cyril Ramaphosa, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong.


So. Korea Plans: Producing Up to 1 Billion Vaccines in 2022

South Korea Plans for Producing Up to 1 Billion Vaccines in 2022

July 28 (EIRNS)—While it remains to be seen how the U.S. will follow through on their commitment to assist India in ramping up COVID-19 vaccine production, the U.S.-Korea plans are moving forward. In India’s case, the U.S. has a bumpy history of blocking critical raw materials for India’s world-leading vaccine production operations, and then turning down repeated requests for vaccines when India was in the greatest need. And today, Antony Blinken offered a paltry, even insulting, $25 million for India’s vaccination program. No vaccines included.

On May 23, when South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in came to the White House, agreement was made on a Global Vaccine Partnership (GVP), first with a “KORUS GVP Experts Group” of scientists, public officials and various experts. Seoul had actually wanted immediate vaccines from the U.S. in exchange for future vaccines to be provided from Seoul to the U.S.—but that was refused. Instead, four deals were initiated, beginning with Samsung Biologics arrangement to produce “hundreds of millions” of Moderna vaccines, as soon as technology transfer and trial production were completed. South Korea would be putting up the money for purchasing the vaccines produced. Moderna also signed an MOU with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, and also the Ministry of Health and Welfare, for Moderna to invest in production facilities in Korea using a Korean workforce, with Korean government support for Moderna. Another MOU was signed by both the Health Ministry and SK Bioscience with the U.S.’s Novavax for vaccine development and production.

The update this month, from “a senior South Korean government official” is that Seoul is in talks with Pfizer and Moderna on expanding production up to 1 billion doses in 2022. (This is on top of deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax.) Health Ministry official Lee Kang-ho commented: “We have had frequent discussions with large pharmaceutical companies to produce mRNA vaccines. South Korea is keen to help by offering its facilities and skilled human resources.” The speculation is that Hanmi Pharmaceuticals and Quratis might be ready to start up production immediately. Hanmi said it has a large capacity reserved to produce Sanofi’s diabetes drug, but that is at a temporary standstill, and the capacity can meanwhile be used to produce COVID vaccines. And Quratis has a one-year-old factory which makes a tuberculosis vaccine, and they say they have capacity for mRNA vaccines. It appears that the technology, workforce and capital is all present, waiting to move forward.


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