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US States, Cities Scramble For COVID-19 Vaccine Freezers

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United State states, cities, and hospitals are scrambling to buy ultra-cold freezers that can safely store Pfizer Inc’s PFE.N COVID-19 vaccine, ignoring advice from the US. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to hold off.
The push reveals a lack of infrastructure to support a super cold vaccine campaign, including equipment to store millions of doses of Pfizer’s vaccine at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94°F), significantly below the standard for vaccines of 2-8 degrees Celsius (36-46°F).
Some specialty freezer makers warn of months-long waits for units.
It also marks widespread wariness of the advice from the CDC, which on Aug. 26 urged healthcare providers not to purchase ultra low temperature (ULT) freezers, saying it was working on solutions for Pfizer’s “very complex storage and handling requirements.”
A CDC spokeswoman on Thursday said the agency expects the first vaccine doses will be in limited quantities and rapidly deployed, reducing the need to store them in specialized freezers.
But the news on Monday that initial results from a pivotal trial of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech 22UAy.F showed it to be more than 90% effective has turned attention to eventual shipping and storage logistics.
That has thrown a spotlight on makers of the niche freezers, including Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc TMO.N, Luxembourg’s B Medical Systems, Helmer Scientific and Stirling Ultracold, who are adding labour and expanding capacity.
“I would estimate that a third of states are purchasing ultra cold storage equipment,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunisation Managers, a nonprofit representing state and local public health officials who handle vaccines.
The specialized freezers required by Pfizer’s vaccine can cost $5,000 to $15,000.
Moderna Inc MRNA.O is close to releasing efficacy results for its similar vaccine, which requires an easier to accommodate storage temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4°F).
At least half a dozen states, including California, Rhode Island and New Mexico, said in published comments to the CDC that they expect to face challenges due to limited supplies of ULT freezers. A similar number told Reuters or said in public filings that they are purchasing units in anticipation of the vaccine rollout.
Kentucky Governor, Andy Beshear, on Thursday called for federal funding for cold storage and said he hopes other vaccines with less onerous storage requirements get approved.
Earlier this year, due to lack of a coordinated federal response to the pandemic, states were forced to compete against each other for everything from protective N95 masks for healthcare workers to ventilators and testing equipment.
While demand for ULT freezers is climbing, it has not entered the early pandemic’s ventilator panic phase where “we had lead times of 18 months,” said Rebecca Gayden, who oversees sourcing of freezers and other capital equipment at Vizient, a purchasing group used by more than 5,000 not-for-profit health systems and affiliates.
lucky. Its ULT freezer is on “back order” until late December, said public information officer Kim Deti.
Cities and states are searching university labs, hospitals and other facilities for available ULT freezer space.
Philadelphia is spending about $19,000 on two B Medical freezers scheduled to be installed later this month, and is working with local healthcare systems to secure additional capacity.
Pfizer’s vaccine could get regulatory approval within weeks with distribution to begin almost immediately.
It will be transported in dry ice-filled, suitcase-sized containers that can only be opened twice a day and last a maximum of two weeks. Dry ice has also been offered as a potential solution for nations without access to ULT storage in vaccination centers.
“Waste is a major concern,” said Soumi Saha, vice president of advocacy at Premier Inc, which coordinates purchases for thousands of U.S. hospitals and health systems. “Do you turn a patient away because you can’t open it a third time that day?”

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Indonesia On Brink Of Covid-19 Catastrophe – Red Cross

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Indonesia is on the brink of a Coronavirus (Covid-19) ‘catastrophe,’ partly due to the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, the Red Cross said yesterday, urging ramp-up of testing and vaccinations.
The country’s medical association warned this week that the health system on the main island of Java was near collapse, with many hospitals turning away patients.
“Every day we are seeing this Delta variant driving Indonesia closer to the edge of a Covid-19 catastrophe,’’ said Jan Gelfand, Head of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) in Indonesia.
“We need lightning-fast action globally so that countries like Indonesia have access to the vaccines needed to avert tens of thousands of deaths,’’ he said in a statement.
More than 20 per cent of Covid-19 tests in Indonesia are returning positive, indicating that the number of infected people is likely to be much more widespread, the IFRC said.
Indonesia recorded 20,467 new cases on Tuesday, taking the total to more than 2.2 million, according to the health ministry.
Another 463 fatalities over- night brought the virus-related death toll to 58,024.
Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, said on Monday that the country would soon vaccinate children after its drug regulator authorised emergency use of the vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech for people aged 12 to 17.
Nearly 28.3 million people aged 18 and above in the world’s fourth most populous nation of 270 million people have received at least the first dose of a vaccine.
Indonesia has set a target of inoculating 181.5 million people by early 2022.

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UN Highlights Policing Reforms To Address Systemic Racism

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United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet says radical policing reforms are needed to address systemic racism affecting people of African descent around the world.
Bachelet said on Monday as her Office published a series of recommendations prompted by the killing of George Floyd.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States while being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit 20 dollars bill.
During the arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes after he was handcuffed and lying face down.
Prior to being placed on the ground, Floyd had exhibited signs of anxiety, complaining about having claustrophobia and being unable to breathe.
After being restrained he became more distressed, complaining of breathing difficulties and the knee on his neck, and expressing fear of imminent death.
Among the new measures proposed in the High Commissioner’s report on racial justice and equality, authorities are urged to reassess whether officers should continue to be the first responders to individuals with mental health problems.
In these and other police actions, the report found that law enforcement officers were rarely held accountable for human rights violations and crimes against people of African descent.
This was owing in part to “deficient investigations, a lack of independent and robust oversight and a widespread “presumption of guilt” against people of African descent.
“The status quo is untenable,” Bachelet said “Systemic racism needs a systemic response.
“We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd”.
In a call to all states “to stop denying, and start dismantling racism”, the UN rights chief appealed to them “to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent and to confront past legacies and deliver redress”.
The High Commissioner’s report collected information on more than 190 cases where people had died in police custody around the world.
It uncovered many similarities and patterns, such as the hurdles families encountered in trying to access justice, according to Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“Accountability is crucial and families do have some form of satisfaction in seeing someone in prison for a crime that is as violent as the murder of George Floyd which we saw on video tape.
“But of course, there are so many cases where there isn’t a video tape and there are even cases where there are video tapes but justice is not being dealt in those cases,” she said.

Across numerous countries, notably in North and South America and in Europe, people of African descent disproportionately live in poverty and face serious barriers.
They face serious barriers in accessing education, healthcare, employment, housing and clean water, as well as to political participation and other fundamental human rights, the report maintained.
These obstacles to fulfilling basic human rights contributed to a tradition of discrimination linked directly to colonialism and slave trading which resulted in the “dehumanisation” of people of African descent, according to the report.
“We realised that a main part of the problem is that many people believe the misconceptions that the abolition of slavery, the end of the transatlantic trade and colonialism have removed the racially discriminatory structures built by those practices but we found that this is not true,” said UN Human Rights Office’s Mona Rishmawi, Chief, Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch.
As a result, countries have not paid adequate attention to the negative impact of policies on minority populations and the “conscious and unconscious bias” associated with it, the OHCHR officer insisted.
For people of African descent, these legacy impacts are “a part of their daily life and the daily reality of dehumanisation, marginalisation and denial of their rights”.
The High Commissioner’s report was set in motion by the Human Rights Council after international outrage at the killing of United States citizen George Floyd in 2020.
His death was caused by police officer Derek Chauvin who was captured on video kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
After a six-week trial this year, Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced last week to prison for more than two decades.

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Zuma Bags 15Months Imprisonment For Contempt Of Court

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South Africa’s constitutional court on Tuesday, sentenced former President Jacob Zuma, to 15 months imprisonment for contempt of court after he failed to appear at a corruption inquiry earlier this year.
Zuma failed to appear at the inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in February, after which the inquiry’s lawyers approached the constitutional court to seek an order for his imprisonment.
The inquiry is examining allegations of high-level graft during Zuma’s period in power from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma denies wrongdoing and has so far not cooperated.
“Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is sentenced to undergo 15 months’ imprisonment,’’ a constitutional court judge said, reading out the court’s order.
Zuma has to appear before police within five days, the judge added.
A spokesman for Zuma told eNCA television that the former president would issue a statement later, without elaborating.
The allegations against Zuma include that he allowed businessmen close to him – brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta – to plunder state resources and influence policy.
The Guptas, who also deny wrongdoing left South Africa after Zuma was ousted in a move orchestrated by allies of his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa has been trying to restore investor confidence in Africa’s most industrialised nation.
However, he has faced opposition from a faction within the governing African National Congress party that is still loyal to Zuma.

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