Leading Kenyan scientist warns world of new ‘super variants’ as India cuts vaccine supply
Senior Kenyan scientist has issued stern warning to the world as vaccine supply in African nation faces crisis after India halt export of vaccines to control coronavirus disease disaster (Covid-19) in his country. Kenya has relied solely on Covax, a global alliance aimed at providing equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, for its vaccination program.
Covax has provided the African nation with more than one million doses of Covidshield, a version of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII). Kenya has used up almost all available doses and the suspension of vaccine exports from India has put an end to the vaccination campaign in the country.
According to Our World in Data, less than 2% of the Kenyan population has received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and with June delivery under Covax already uncertain, the country looks to an uncertain future. With such a small percentage of the Kenyan population having received Covid jab, this too with the single dose of the two-dose regimen, it is still above the overall percentage of the African population vaccinated, indicating that the situation in other countries is worse.
Dr Ahmed Kalebi, pathologist and founding partner of LancetGroup Laboratories in East Africa, told CNN that the Covid disaster in India is a red flag for the whole world. While third world countries, Kalebi said, have struggled to contain previous waves of Covid, they could witness “something worse if something isn’t done.” He urged richer countries to rethink their immunization strategies as they now move quickly to immunize low-risk groups, including children and adolescents.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended increased use of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization . Kalebi said vaccinating adolescents “makes no sense” when vulnerable groups and potential superstars around the world have not been vaccinated.
“These are probably the breeding grounds for new super variants. It is a global village. None of us are safe until we are all safe, ”he warned.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also criticized the immunization strategy of rich countries, saying the world is witnessing a “moral catastrophe”. During a press briefing on Friday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that the supply of vaccines to low- and lower-middle-income countries has not been sufficient to immunize even their health workers.
“I understand why some countries want to immunize their children and adolescents, but for now, I urge them to reconsider and donate vaccines to COVAX instead,” Dr Tedros said.
In early March, a study suggested that different virus variants of concern appear to be converging by mutations into a ‘super variant’ that would make the fight against Covid-19 difficult. Researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and South Africa noted that the emergence and rapid increase in the prevalence of three independent lines of SARS-CoV-2 “501Y” have elicited new concerns about the virus’s “evolving ability to adapt to both.” increased population immunity and public health interventions such as vaccines and social distancing. “
“[W]We find evidence that a significant part of the ongoing adaptive evolution of the 501Y lineages also involves further convergence between lineages, ”said the study, published in preprint form.