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AstraZeneca’s pause in Europe raises doubts in other parts of the world.

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AstraZeneca's pause in Europe raises doubts in other parts of the world.
AstraZeneca's pause in Europe raises doubts in other parts of the world.

AstraZeneca’s pause in Europe raises doubts in other parts of the world.

 

The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine in many European countries over the last week may fuel doubts about the vaccine well beyond their borders, jeopardizing the rollout of a vaccine that is critical to the global strategy to end the coronavirus pandemic, especially in developing countries.

For certain poorer countries, it’s either AstraZeneca or none right now. The vaccine developed by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company is less expensive and easier to store than many others. COVAX, a consortium dedicated to ensuring vaccine delivery to low- and middle-income nations, will use it to make up almost all of the doses shipped in the first half of the year.

Most developing countries that had the AstraZeneca vaccine on hand went ahead with it despite major European countries halting its use over the past week after reports of irregular blood clots being found in some vaccine recipients — despite insistence from international health organizations that the vaccine was not to blame.

Although governments in Africa and other parts of the world have announced their intention to continue using the shot, not everyone is persuaded.

“Why should I allow it to be used on me?” says the narrator. Aren’t we all human beings, much like the Europeans?” According to Peter Odongo, a resident of a town in northern Uganda, who spoke to the Daily Monitor this week.

By Tuesday, the East African country had received 864,000 AstraZeneca doses through COVAX but had only administered 3,000. Authorities blamed logistical difficulties in transporting the vaccines across the world, but newspaper reports claim that the vaccine is resistant.

Well before the recent AstraZeneca controversy, vaccine skepticism was a big issue around the world, with many people suspicious of shots produced in record time. African countries have faced unique challenges on a continent that is wary of serving as a test bed for the West. Some leaders, such as those in Burundi and Tanzania, have fought back against skepticism, while others, such as those in Burundi and Tanzania, have fuelled it by attempting to downplay COVID-19’s significance.

“Unfortunate events” in Europe would ”clearly not be helpful for our public confidence, in building public confidence and trust on the use of that particular vaccine and other vaccines for sure,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to reporters on Thursday.

The announcement came just hours after the European Union’s drug regulator sent the same message to its 27 members. The European Medicines Agency said its experts concluded that the vaccine is not related to an overall rise in the incidence of blood clots, but it couldn’t rule out the possibility of a correlation between the vaccine and unusual types of clots. As a result, countries such as Italy, France, and Germany have declared that they would resume using the shot.

Several developed countries had said they would hold to the shot even before those reversals.

“We will continue the vaccinations,” Lia Tadesse, Ethiopia’s health minister, said last week after the country collected 2.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Authorities in India, which is home to the vaccine manufacturer that will likely produce a significant portion of the doses intended for the developing world, said Wednesday that AstraZeneca inoculations will be continued with “full vigor” in many parts of the region, despite an increase in infections. Thailand announced Tuesday that it would continue to use AstraZeneca’s vaccine after initially delaying it. The prime minister also received his shot in public.

The first AstraZeneca shots bottled in Brazil were delivered on Wednesday by Brazil’s state-run Fiocruz institute, as the Health Ministry tried to allay fears over the blood clot reports by urging calm.

Just a few developed nations defied the trend. Congo, for example, has stopped using AstraZeneca, putting its vaccine program on hold long before it started due to a lack of alternative doses. Indonesia paused the shot as well, but announced on Friday that it would resume using it.

AstraZeneca is currently the linchpin in the strategy to vaccinate the rest of the world. European and other affluent countries have many vaccine choices, but AstraZeneca is currently the linchpin in the strategy to vaccinate the rest of the world. Some developing countries have received doses of Chinese or Russian-made vaccines as donations, but these allotments have typically been limited, at least in Africa. COVAX is unable to sell Chinese and Russian vaccines because they have not yet been approved by WHO.

Africa, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, plans to vaccinate 60% of its population by the year 2022. Without widespread use of AstraZeneca, the target would almost certainly be missed. Experts also cautioned that once global vaccination rates are high, the virus will continue to be a problem everywhere.

The waning trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine only adds to the challenges Africa will face in implementing its vaccination programs. Some of the world’s worst health services are located on the continent. Countries have failed to screen enough people for the coronavirus, and the true toll is uncertain due to difficulties monitoring cases and deaths. More than 4 million coronavirus cases have been reported across Africa, with over 108,000 deaths, according to the Africa CDC.

The World Bank found that while 85 percent of low- and middle-income countries had a vaccination programme, only about a third had public engagement programs in place to address vaccine skepticism and misinformation.

As a result, uncertainty like the one created by AstraZeneca’s pause in Europe can be difficult to resolve.

The suspension, according to Dr. Misaki Wayengera, head of a technical taskforce advising Uganda’s pandemic response, “complicates the situation.” “This is our best chance, and we should be able to handle it.”

The blow to public trust was felt in countries like Somalia, where vaccinations started on Tuesday but some people said they didn’t want to get the AstraZeneca shot, despite the fact that many in Europe didn’t.

Abdulkadir Osman said, “This immunization makes no sense when the EU countries have suspended its use.” “We can’t just put our confidence in it.”

In Rwanda, which received 240,000 AstraZeneca doses and just over 102,000 of the Pfizer vaccine, Justin Gatsinzi said he was initially reluctant to get the shot but relented out of fear he would be denied some public services if he refused.

“It’s very tricky actually,” said Gatsinzi, a teacher, adding that he was not told which vaccine he got.

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Avalanche leads NHL in scoring but ranks 27th in defense. “We got to be better defensively. Doesn’t matter who’s in net”

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Avalanche leads NHL in scoring but ranks 27th in defense. “We got to be better defensively. Doesn’t matter who’s in net”

NEW YORK — Jared Bednar’s demeanor after Monday’s 7-5 victory at Philadelphia bordered on somber. The Avalanche had just improved to 2-1-1 on its five-game road trip, but its head coach wasn’t too thrilled for the third time in four games.

Sure, the high-scoring Avs can score goals. They lead the NHL at 4.14 goals per game and have reached seven goals a league-high four times. But they rank 27th in goals-allowed (3.45) and they’ve given up more goals (20) than they’ve scored (19) on the trip, which concludes Wednesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

“I know what we’re selling in the locker room,” Bednar said of defensive structure. “I think our team has a real good idea on what we have to do to have success long-term, but it just doesn’t seem like we’re following through on it for 60 minutes.”

The structure appears off, with the Avs allowing far too many opportunities on their send of the ice so far this season. Colorado had a league-low 25.4 shots against average last season. Currently, it is allowing 30.3, tied for ninth.

Goaltending could also be part of the problem, although Bednar didn’t acknowledge that. Throughout the trip, Colorado has used two guys who were pegged to begin the season in the minors (Jonas Johansson and rookie Justus Annunen) while Darcy Kuemper recovers from an upper-body injury and Pavel Francouz completes his minor-league conditioning assignment.

Johansson has a .884 save percentage in eight appearances and Annunen is at .892 in two. Kuemper (.903) isn’t much better and Francouz has yet to play in the NHL this season after suffering a lower-body injury in the preseason.

“We got to be better defensively. Doesn’t matter who’s in net,” Bednar said.

Avs players realize the problem — particularly the two defensemen who spoke at the post-game news conference in Philly.

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Douglas County School Board to vote on mask mandate in schools

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Douglas County School Board to vote on mask mandate in schools

The new school board overseeing the Douglas County School District will meet Tuesday to decide whether to end the mask requirements inside schools.

The resolution that the Board of Education will consider states that the district will not mandate masks in schools unless they are required by federal, state or local laws or public health orders. The school board will also not set a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students or district staff, according to the resolution.

“The (b)oard recommends, regardless of vaccination status, personal and parent choice with respect to whether or not children should wear face coverings while at school, while also allowing for appropriate and necessary accommodation of students with disabilities…,” reads the resolution.

The school board meeting starts at 5 p.m. and at least two hours of public comment scheduled. The board is not expected to vote on no-masks until around 8:10 p.m., according to the agenda.

The meeting comes a month after four new conservative members — all against mask mandates — were elected to the school board last month. They hold the majority on the seven-member board.

However, a federal judge blocked a mask exemption from Douglas County’s new health department in October, saying it violated the rights of students with disabilities, so it’s unclear what effect a vote in favor of ending the mandate will immediately have.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal masking inside school buildings for students and staff. The agency discovered that counties without face-covering requirements saw larger increases in COVID-19 cases in children after the start of school during the 2021-22 year, according to a Sept. 24 study.

Colorado saw a rise in COVID-19 cases among students after school returned in the fall, most notably among those — ages 5 to 11 years old — who were not eligible for a vaccine until November. Infections among children recently declined, but public health officials have warned that they could increase again as the holidays approach.

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DeVante Parker’s return can add another dimension to Dolphins’ offense

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DeVante Parker’s return can add another dimension to Dolphins’ offense

Before Sunday’s 20-9 victory over the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker had only played in one game over the previous two months with hamstring and shoulder issues.

He was away for a key stretch during Miami’s seven-game losing streak that included losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, and then he missed the first four of the Dolphins’ five-game winning streak going into the bye week.

Now, after quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the offense found somewhat of a groove without him, his reinsertion into the lineup can bring an added dimension to the Dolphins.

Playing 71 percent of offensive snaps against the Giants, Parker caught all five passes thrown his way in his return for 62 yards. He made acrobatic sideline catches for first downs on both the touchdown drive at the end of the first half and a key fourth-quarter drive in sealing the win.

“It feels good being back on the field with my teammates,” Parker said in a web conference on Monday. “I’m just glad I was able to be a part of the win. I just wanted to help us get a W, and that’s what I did.”

Having Parker and his ability to make contested, possession-type catches against cornerbacks on the outside gives Tagovailoa that option, expanding on what he’s been able to do with Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, Mack Hollins and others.

“It creates a lot of defensive issues outside,” said co-offensive coordinator George Godsey on Tuesday. “He does a great job blocking in the run game. He’s got a lot of experience to help out the guys in the meeting room. … Having his experience and productivity out there is definitely a helpful thing for the whole unit.”

Tagovailoa enjoyed being able to throw it up to Parker when in single coverage to allow him to go up and get the ball.

“DeVante adds another vertical stretch for us offensively,” Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s win, “and he makes tough catches when you need him to, so really glad to have him back.”

Tagovailoa and Parker have established chemistry on back-shoulder throws on the sideline in their season-plus together that has been interrupted multiple times by injuries to each.

“You just throw it to the guy and let him catch it because he’s done that and he’s proven that in his career,” Godsey said. “There’s a lot of evidence on tape of guys that have his ability to just get up there and catch the ball, whether it’s behind them, in front of them, a jump ball. As many times as we can get the ball in his vicinity, we like it.”

Added Parker: “Any time you see any of us receivers out there pressed against someone, you assume they’ll want to go to you. It’s a one-on-one matchup. You just want to go to that.”

His presence, while it means targets getting further split, can also free up other Dolphins pass catchers.

“When he’s going, everybody is feeding off of him, everybody is feeding off his energy and it drives everyone else to play better, as well,” said fellow receiver Isaiah Ford. “He’s a special player. He has extremely good body control, ball skills and everything like that.”

And Parker is also coming back to a renewed Tagovailoa.

“He has a lot more confidence, and you see it in his throws,” Parker said. “The one-on-one coverage, he goes to it. That’s what we like to see. Just the confidence in him. That’s good for the team.”

Baker nominated

Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker was named the team’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.

One of the first recurring events Baker established after he was drafted by the Dolphins in 2018 was a Christmas event for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade. Born on Christmas Day himself, he hosts the event for children as a birthday gift and even made sure the event could be held virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic.

When a residential building collapsed in Surfside in June, Baker partnered with a minority-owned small business food truck to provide meals to first responders aiding in the recovery efforts. After an earthquake hit Haiti in August, Baker helped transport donation items to Haiti and supported a call for action for the public to deliver goods needed by the country.

When he was drafted in 2018, Baker established the Expand the Land Foundation to inspire youth and provide mentorship and programming in his hometown of Cleveland.

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