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Opinion | Booster Shots Would Be Better Spent Saving African Lives

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Opinion | Booster Shots Would Be Better Spent Saving African Lives


As the rich world rolls out Covid-19 booster shots, hundreds of millions of Africans remain dangerously exposed, still awaiting their first vaccine dose. This not only adds to the litany of harsh disparities we’ve seen around this virus, but it is also a scandalous injury to global solidarity and vaccine equity.

While early data on waning immunity is emerging around some vaccines, there’s no conclusive evidence to justify giving boosters to fit, healthy people. Third doses should be given only to the small number of people facing a high risk of severe illness and death, despite being fully vaccinated, including those with compromised immune systems. Boosters for the healthy are, effectively, a hopeful “why not.” Political decisions are getting ahead of science, diverting doses and leaving Africans with few options.

Giving healthy people boosters now is similar to sending a generous educational grant to a billionaire while others are scraping together their college tuition.

While Africa has weathered the Covid-19 pandemic better than many people expected, we are seeing each wave drive harder and faster. The third wave has been the worst yet, and it is putting a strain on already stretched and fragile health systems. While weekly new cases are subsiding, they remain high, and the pace of the descent is excruciatingly slow. The continent just passed 8 million reported cases, and it urgently needs vaccines to blunt the impact of a fourth wave.

Even before vaccines were approved, rich countries bought up far more doses than they needed, shunting others to the back of the line. Nine months after the arrival of the first vaccine, just 20 percent of people in low- and lower-middle-income countries have received a first dose — compared with 80 percent in many high- and upper-middle-income countries.


Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

Perhaps no group of countries has been hit harder by this vaccine hoarding than the countries of Africa. Shipments ground to a near halt for months, as promised supplies dried up because of global shortages and export bans. Today, just 51 million people — or 3.6 percent — of Africa’s population are fully vaccinated, compared with over 60 percent in the United Kingdom and the European Union and almost 55 percent in the United States.

Shipments are picking up, and we are grateful for the international solidarity and leadership shown by the United States and other partners in sharing millions of doses, including through Covax, which works for the fair distribution of vaccines globally.

Some estimates indicate that even if rich countries do approve booster shots, they will still have more than 1 billion excess doses by the end of 2021. But that does not mean those doses will be shared or will reach those who need them in time. Just 15 percent of the more than 1 billion doses pledged by high-income countries have arrived in Africa so far. Wealthy countries must let go of reserved doses and cede their place in the queue, allowing Covax and the African Union to buy the vaccines the continent seeks and stands ready to finance.

Export restrictions, production constraints and delays in regulatory approvals led Covax to slash its delivery forecast for this year by about 25 percent. Other pledges may not be fulfilled before the middle of next year. Africa and other parts of the world need these vaccines. Now.

Governments, of course, have a duty to their own people, but giving boosters to fully vaccinated individuals goes against rich countries’ own interests. Countries with low vaccination rates could act as variant incubators, increasing the risk that more dangerous variants will emerge and enter international travel networks.

We have already seen the havoc caused by the Delta variant. Now present in 180 countries, this highly transmissible variant is leading to rising deaths in many rich nations. It is also complicating Africa’s response to the pandemic, driving new flare-ups and keeping new case numbers high.

Reports of millions of doses being wasted or discarded in rich countries are heartbreaking. Like so many other people I know here in the Republic of Congo and back home in Botswana, I have lost friends and colleagues to Covid-19. Every single one of those wasted doses could have saved a life in Africa.

The travesty of vaccine inequity is set to hit low-income countries economically, too. Global economic losses due to delayed vaccinations may, according to one estimate, run into the trillions of dollars in the coming years if low- and middle-income countries cannot quickly vaccinate most of their people. The International Monetary Fund recently cited access to vaccines as the “principal fault line” along which the global economic recovery is diverging. If vaccine inequity persists, growth rates in poorer countries may not return to prepandemic levels until 2024.

In order to help countries fully vaccinate 40 percent of their people, the World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on booster shots for fit, healthy people until the end of December.

Despite all of this, at least 13 countries are already giving or plan to give boosters, and several more are considering it. If all high- and upper-middle-income countries were to give boosters to everyone age 50 and over, nearly one billion vaccine doses would be needed annually, according to a W.H.O. analysis. With two-dose vaccines, that’s enough to vaccinate nearly 40 percent of Africa’s population — the global year-end target set by the W.H.O. in May 2021.

The W.H.O. is working with national regulators around the world to gather data on boosters. Only a coordinated research effort will help us understand how much additional protection they provide.

So we’re not saying “never.” But now is not the time to give boosters to fully vaccinated people with fully functioning immune systems.

We don’t know yet how much boosters might help protect people, but we do know that their deployment will hurt the prospects of many in Africa.

The people facing the most risk must be vaccinated first. Wherever they are.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (@MoetiTshidi) is the W.H.O. regional director for Africa. She previously worked with the United Nations program on H.I.V. and AIDS and with Botswana’s Ministry of Health as a clinician and public health specialist.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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Politics

Opinion | James Bond Has No Time for China

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Opinion | James Bond Has No Time for China


The final James Bond outing for Daniel Craig, “No Time to Die,” also marks a notable milestone for Bondian geopolitics: The franchise just completed a five-movie arc with a single lead actor, and amid all the globe-trotting and intrigue you would barely know that China existed. Shanghai and Macau were brief backdrops, and one villain had been tortured, offstage and in the past, by Chinese security forces — but overall a series released across the years of China’s rise gave little hint that America’s leading rival mattered any more than any other exotic Bondian locale.

In fairness, the Cold War-era Bond movies were not obsessed with Russia, serving up stateless supervillains rather than Soviet adversaries in many of his outings. But the reality of Russian power was part of the fabric of the series. The same actor showed up as the head of the K.G.B., for instance, in five Bond movies in the 1970s and ’80s.

China’s absence from Bondworld is part of a general absence in American cinema. Out of fear of losing the Chinese market, and amid the aggressive use of commercial soft power by Beijing, in the almost quarter-century since Brad Pitt’s “Seven Years in Tibet” and Richard Gere’s “Red Corner,” no major Hollywood release has portrayed the Communist regime in a substantially negative light. Instead, China appears in our pop productions in soft focus, as in “The Martian” and “Arrival,” or else takes a fantastical form, as in “Mulan” and “Shang-Chi.”

Or just as often, as in the Craig movies, it barely appears at all. The Asian pop culture that has increasing influence on America is mostly Korean and Japanese, while China — despite all its power, despite our economic intertwinement, despite its crucial role in our political and now our public-health debates — remains more a domain for experts, its internal life and culture more distant and opaque.

As a consequence, its relationship to American ideological debates is fluid, fraught and strange. Things were simpler 15 years ago, when openness to China — a politics of commercial exchange, with the expectation of China’s liberalization and occasional envy for its apparent technocratic competence — was the default establishment position, with economic critiques of what the “Chimerican” relationship meant for American workers and fears of Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions concentrated on the farther left and right.

But as it became clear that the opening to China was not leading to political liberalization, and as its socioeconomic costs to the American heartland became clear as well, there was an ideological scrambling that hasn’t ended yet.

On the left now you see several impulses. There is an irrelevant but fascinating fringe of very online “tankies” — a reference to the Communists who justified the U.S.S.R. sending in the tanks to Hungary — actively championing the Beijing regime. There is a Bernie Sanders left that wants to critique the Chinese regime on trade and human rights, but fears anything that seems like warmongering. And there is a left that thinks the existential stakes of climate change require deep cooperation with Beijing.

The center, meanwhile, has lost its optimism about China turning into a democracy. But it’s not sure whether to pivot to confrontation and try to disentangle our economies, or whether globalization makes that disentanglement impossible and so we need, with whatever nose-holding, to deepen ties instead. (This divide runs through President Biden’s cabinet.)

The right includes several tendencies as well. There’s a Cold War 2.0 mentality, which fears China as a sweeping ideological threat, a fusion of old-model Communism with 21st-century surveillance technology that promises to make totalitarianism great again. There’s a realist perspective that regards China as a traditional great-power rival and focuses on military containment. And there’s a view that sees China and the United States as actually converging in decadence — with similar problems, from declining birthrates to social inequalities to internet-mediated unhappiness.

But for some on the right, that last view comes with a wrinkle, where the Chinese state is almost admired for trying to act against this decadence — as in its attempt to wean young people off the “spiritual opium” of video gaming — in a way that liberal societies cannot.

Behind all of these differences is a question: What kind of regime is China, really? A Marxist-Leninist state with capitalist trimmings? An authoritarian meritocracy? A fascist state with Maoist characteristics? A new form of digitized totalitarianism? A neo-Confucian order, channeling ancient conservatism through modern one-party rule? A dark-mirror version of internet-age America?

Americans have never exactly excelled at understanding other societies, and a few Chinese bad guys in James Bond movies obviously won’t shed the light we need. But Hollywood’s supine attitude toward Chinese power is a useful window into a larger problem: We need to see our great 21st-century rival clearly, and too often we see only through a glass darkly, if at all.



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Trump-backed challengers to Republican lawmakers lag in fundraising

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Trump-backed challengers to Republican lawmakers lag in fundraising


By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four candidates backed by Donald Trump to challenge Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him or boot him from office are falling behind in raising money for their campaigns, according to disclosures filed on Friday.

Trump, who left office in January, remains a major influence within the Republican party, which hopes to regain control of the U.S. Congress in next year’s elections.

Only a handful of Republicans joined Democrats when Congress voted to impeach Trump and then held an unsuccessful vote in the Senate to remove him from office, on a charge he incited insurrectionists to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump has called the Republicans who crossed him “disloyal” or “losers,” and they have faced scorn within their party. Several have said they will retire or not seek re-election.

But those who are facing Trump-backed candidates in upcoming party nomination contests so far have raised more money than their challengers, which might help them counter Trump’s campaign against them.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a moderate who was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump in the Senate, raised $1.1 million between July and September, more than the twice the $466,000 raised by her Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka, a former state administration commissioner endorsed by Trump.

Murkowski – who ended September with $3.2 million in the bank, more than 10 times what Tshibaka had – raked in money from corporate-run donor committees, according to a disclosure Murkowski filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Murkowski also raised more than $75,000 through a joint fundraising effort with several senators endorsed by Trump, including Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who voted against convicting Trump.

Raising more money by no means guarantees victory, but it can help candidates buy expensive television advertisements and pay campaign staff.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is widely seen in great peril of losing her seat because of her vote to impeach Trump and her vocal criticism of the former president, raised $1.7 million during the three-month period.

Her Trump-endorsed opponent, attorney Harriet Hageman, entered the race in early September and raised about $300,000, or roughly $100,000 a week, shy of Cheney’s fundraising pace.

Cheney, the highest-profile lawmaker of the 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump, drew donations from a number of Wall Street executives, including Blackstone Chief Investment Officer Prakash Melwani. Hageman received a donation from billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Trump has also endorsed opponents to U.S. Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who both voted to impeach him.

Upton raised $293,000 between July and September, more than the twice the $116,000 raised by his Trump-endorsed challenger, state lawmaker Steve Carra.

Herrera Beutler not only voted to impeach Trump, she submitted evidence in his Senate trial against the former president. She took in $524,000 during the period, outraising Trump-backed Army veteran Joe Kent, who raised $452,000.

Trump also endorsed his former White House aide Max Miller to challenge U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who said in September he would not seek re-election. Miller’s disclosure filed on Friday showed his campaign raised $695,000, most of which came from a half-million-dollar contribution he made to his own campaign.

 

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Leslie Adler)



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The Music Lost to Coronavirus, Part 3

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The Music Lost to Coronavirus, Part 3


This past summer, it briefly seemed as if the worst of the coronavirus might be behind us. But despite some encouraging signs — like the concert business amping up again — the pandemic’s landscape continued to shift; the Delta variant spread widely, and deaths rose again. Many musicians and people integral to the music business have been lost to Covid-19.

On this week’s Popcast, the third in a recurring series, a handful of remembrances of musicians who died during the pandemic:

  • Jacob Desvarieux, one of the founders and the core arranger of Kassav’, the band that pioneered zouk music, who died at 65.

  • John Davis, one of the actual singing voices behind the façade-pop supernova act Milli Vanilli, who died at 66.

  • Chucky Thompson, a hip-hop and R&B producer responsible for hits by Mary J. Blige, the Notorious B.I.G. and others, who died at 53.

Guests:

  • Doreen St. Felix, television critic at The New Yorker

  • Gil Kaufman, senior writer and editor at Billboard

  • Jeff Mao, longtime music journalist and D.J.

Connect With Popcast. Become a part of the Popcast community: Join the show’s Facebook group and Discord channel. We want to hear from you! Tune in, and tell us what you think at popcast@nytimes.com. Follow our host, Jon Caramanica, on Twitter: @joncaramanica.



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