It’s going to take years for the world to come to grips with the impact of COVID-19. Moving slightly away from the immediate effect of the disease, there are numerous medical issues that have arisen during the pandemic. Shortages in hospital facilities and medical personnel are most prominent among them. This has, in turn, led to a decline in treatment of other illnesses.
According to an international study conducted across 22 countries, COVID-19 has reduced access to solid organ transplantation. Kidney transplantation was the most-affected, followed by lung, liver, and heart. (Reference: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(21)00200-0/fulltext)
The countries included sixteen in Europe (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK), two in North America (Canada and the US), three in South America (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile), and Japan. Data collected from January 1 to December 31, 2020 was compared with that from the same period in 2019.
According to the study, “temporal trends revealed a marked worldwide reduction in transplant activity during the first 3 months of the pandemic, with losses stabilising after June, 2020, but decreasing again from October to December, 2020.
“We observed an overall decrease of 11, 253 (-15·92%) organ transplants across all 22 countries.”
The overall reduction in transplants during the observation time period translated to 48, 239 waitlisted patient life-years lost.
The 1st International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA), which was postponed (reference: https://bit.ly/3xFjH43) earlier this year due to COVID-19, will now take place virtually on 14-16 December 2021. According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention , the conference offers a unique platform for African researchers, policymakers and stakeholders to share scientific findings and public health perspectives and collaborate on research, innovation, and public health across the continent.
With nearly eight million infections and nearly 200,000 lives lost across Africa, the impact of COVID-19 has already been severe. Economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic have threatened even more lives and livelihoods, putting years of human development progress at risk of reversal.
“Africa has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a historic opportunity to build a new public health order that makes health for all a reality across the continent. Together, we can build health systems and manufacturing capacities to effectively respond to multiple health threats,” said John Nkengasong, MSc, PhD, director of the Africa CDC. “The Africa CDC’s inaugural annual conference provides a platform that capitalizes on the knowledge, experience and ambition of Africans to collectively pave the way for a healthier future for all.”
The 3-day conference in December will focus on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, strengthening health systems and learnings from the COVID-19 response. There will be a special focus on skill-building for early career professionals. An Organizing Committee of more than 15 health leaders from across Africa and the globe are helping to shape the strategic direction of the conference.
“The past 18 months have been full of uncertainty and hardship – especially for women and girls and other marginalized groups – but one clear message has emerged: To build a healthier and more equitable future for all Africans, we need African leadership and African-led solutions,” said Professor Senait Fisseha, MD, JD CPHIA Co-Chair and Director of Global Programs and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.
“We cannot prevent the emergence of outbreaks, but we can prevent their spread,” Nkengasong said in an online briefing last month as he encouraged member-states to establish their own public health institutes or what he referred to as “the equivalent of a mini-CDC.”(Reference: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-12/africa-urged-to-set-up-mini-cdcs-to-combat-future-outbreaks)
By being better prepared for future outbreaks the region may be able to limit the devastation wrought on its economies from diseases. Last year sub-Saharan Africa recorded its worst contraction on record from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and is poised to be the world’s slowest growing region in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund.
“On current forecasts, per capita GDP in many countries is not expected to reach pre-crisis levels until the end of 2025,” the IMF said in an April report. “Limited access to vaccines and the region’s lack of fiscal space are expected to weigh on the outlook.”
Nkengasong comments come as Guinea, which has battled an Ebola epidemic in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, also reported its first death of the Marburg virus, a close cousin of Ebola that killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.
US President Joe Biden’s ambitious booster plan may need to be scaled back as the calendar nears September 20, when officials initially said boosters could be available for people who had either of the mRNA COVID-18 vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna.
Federal health officials relayed that Moderna’s submission was “found inadequate and needs strengthened data” from the company, a source said. The company announced on Twitter Friday (September 3rd,) that it has completed submission of its data on booster doses to the FDA. The agency is already evaluating data submitted by Pfizer/BioNTech for approval of a booster dose.
The Pfizer process remains on track, with the FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting set for September 17, the source said.
The New York Times was first to report on the discussion about scaling back the booster shot plan. FDA officials previously tried to get the White House to refrain from putting a specific date on when people should expect COVID-19 booster shots, but they did anyway. White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients and federal health officials have repeatedly said the September 20th booster rollout was pending signoff from the FDA and US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last month, Biden announced that his administration would start offering boosters to those who’d been fully immunised at least eight months ago by the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. The original plan was contingent on approval by the FDA, which still says there’s not enough data on booster shots to go forward.
(Lalita Panicker is consulting editor, views, Hindustan Times, New Delhi)