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Over 80 mn children at risk as Covid-19 disrupts routine vaccination

In Laos, despite a national lockdown imposed in March, routine immunisation in fixed sites continued with physical distancing measures in place.

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New Delhi, May 22 : Covid-19 has disrupted life-saving immunisation services around the world, which is likely to affect approximately 80 million children under the age of one.

The hindrance is putting millions of children, both in rich and poor countries alike, at risk of diseases like diphtheria, measles, and polio. The stark warning came forth in the data collected by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, Gavi and the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

“Disruption to immunisation programmes from the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The reasons for disrupted services vary. Some parents are reluctant to leave home because of restrictions on movement, lack of information or because they fear infection with the ovid-19 virus.

Other than that, many health workers are also unavailable because of restrictions on travel, or redeployment to Covid response duties, as well as a lack of protective equipment.

Many countries have temporarily and justifiably suspended preventive mass vaccination campaigns against diseases like cholera, measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever, due to risk of transmission and the need to maintain physical distancing during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Measles and polio vaccination campaigns, in particular, have been badly hit, with measles campaigns suspended in 27 countries and polio campaigns put on hold in 38 countries.

At least 24 million people in 21 Gavi-supported lower-income countries are at risk of missing out on vaccines against polio, measles, typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, rotavirus, HPV, meningitis and rubella due to postponed campaigns and introductions of new vaccines.

Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley said: “Due to Covid-19 this immense progress is now under threat, risking the resurgence of diseases like measles and polio. Not only will maintaining immunisation programmes prevent more outbreaks, it will also ensure we have the infrastructure we need to roll out an eventual Covid-19 vaccine on a global scale.”

Transport delays of vaccines are exacerbating the situation. UNICEF has reported a substantial delay in planned vaccine deliveries due to the lockdown measures and the ensuing decline in commercial flights and limited availability of charters.

To help mitigate this, UNICEF is appealing to governments, the private sector, the airline industry, and others, to free up freight space at an affordable cost for these life-saving vaccines.

“We cannot let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

Fore further said that while circumstances may require us to temporarily pause some immunisation efforts, immunisations must restart as soon as possible, or we risk exchanging one deadly outbreak for another.

Despite the challenges, several countries are making special efforts to continue immunization. Uganda is ensuring that immunisation services continue along with other essential health services, even funding transportation to ensure outreach activities.

In Laos, despite a national lockdown imposed in March, routine immunisation in fixed sites continued with physical distancing measures in place.

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Delay in reporting Covid deaths: AIIMS, RML, Lok Nayak served notice

While Delhi has reported only 73 deaths till May 10, the Covid toll on Sunday has reached 473 — after hospitals started reporting the pending deaths.

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New Delhi, May 31 : Weeks after warning all the hospitals here of strict action on delay in reporting coronavirus fatalities, the Delhi government has served a show cause notice to AIIMS, Lok Nayak, RML and Safdarjung Hospitals to explain the reasons for delay in reporting the deaths.

The Delhi Health Department on Sunday said memorandums have also been issued to Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital to explain the reasons for delay in reporting death cases.

“Show cause notices have been issued to AIIMS Hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital, RML Hospital, and Safdarjung Hospital to explain the reasons for delay in reporting death cases in violation of the directions issued by the Health Department of Delhi as well as by DDMA under the Disaster Management Act,” the Health Department said.

Also, it said, an advisory have been issued to Lok Nayak Hospital to “be careful in future and follow the orders and guidelines issued by the department in true letter and spirit” so that there is no anomaly in the deaths being reported by the government.

While Lok Nayak Hospital is a Delhi government hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Safdarjung Hospital are under the Central government.

On May 10, accepting that public and private hospitals in the city were not reporting the Covid-19 deaths in a timely and regular manner, the Delhi government, after much criticism from the opposition, warned all the hospitals of strict action on delay in reporting of coronavirus deaths and ask the healthcare facilities to submit the death report, even nil, by 5 p.m. daily.

Along with the order, Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev on May 10, also issued the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) as per which every Covid hospital and health facility will have to report all death cases of Covid-19 positive patients by email to the District Surveillance Unit and also to the State Surveillance unit of IDSP Cell of Delhi Government by 5 p.m. every day.

The order warned that non-compliance will be viewed seriously and strict action as per the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 as well as other relevant laws will be taken against the defaulters without any further notice.

While Delhi has reported only 73 deaths till May 10, the Covid toll on Sunday has reached 473 — after hospitals started reporting the pending deaths. The Health report said that the cumulative death figures refer to fatalities where the primary cause of death was found to be the infection, as per the report of the Death Audit Committee on the basis of case sheets received from various hospitals.

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US sends 2 million doses of unproven COVID-19 drug to Brazil: White House

The White House announced on Sunday that the U.S. has sent 2 million doses of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to Brazil, and that 1,000 ventilators will soon be delivered as well as the South American country becomes the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The White House says the U.S. has sent 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil, and that 1,000 ventilators will soon be delivered as well.

This comes even as some countries have banned the use of the drug for COVID-19 over safety concerns.

  • Brazil reported a record 33,274 new cases on Saturday as its death toll surpassed France’s, ranking fourth in the world behind the U.S., U.K. and Italy.
  • Trump last week suspended entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil within the past 14 days.

Between the lines: Hydroxychloroquine has become a point of heated political debate in President Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, as he first touted the drug as a potential “game-changer” and said he was taking it himself as a preventative.

  • But a large study in The Lancet found an increased risk of heart problems and death among coronavirus patients who took hydroxychloroquine, prompting France to ban use of the drug and the World Health Organization to temporarily suspend a trial.
  • Anthony Fauci told CNN last week that the scientific data “is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy” of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.

What they’re saying: The White House said in a statement that the drug will “be used as a prophylactic to help defend Brazil’s nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals agains the virus.”

  • “It will also be used as a therapeutic to treat Brazilians who become infected,” the statement adds.
  • “With [Trump] and President Jair Bolsonaro having spoken twice since March, the two countries are well-positioned to continue their work together to address the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to other matters of strategic importance.”
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We share our support for racial equality: Sundar Pichai

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San Francisco, May 31 : Google and YouTube on Sunday put a black ribbon on its home page in the US, showing solidarity for protests against the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody.

“We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it,” the message read on the Google home page.

The same message was also placed on the US home page of Google-owned YouTube.

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted: “Today on US Google & YouTube homepages we share our support for racial equality in solidarity with the Black community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & others who don’t have a voice.

“For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone,” Pichai added.

Last week, a policeman choked an African-American man Floyd, to death by kneeling on his neck in Minneapolis.

Several states in the US erupted in protests after the video went viral.

The riots stretching from New York on the east coast to Los Angeles on the west rocked the nation that was just beginning to relax the Covid-19 restrictions threatening to spread the disease.

The force of the protests that have turned violent comes from the ongoing brutality against minorities by police with two other recent cases adding to the fury behind the killing of Floyd.

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