Europe is engaging Africa on prospects of combating the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world as scientists struggle to find solutions to secure lives from the wrath inflicted by the virus.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who is in Rwanda on an official visit, met with Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, and held discussions on various topics including the pandemic.
Michel said on Sunday evening that he had discussed with President Kagame on “broad range of bilateral, regional and global topics…”
Specifically, he said, that discussions focused on concrete action to fight the pandemic and prepare post-COVID-19 recovery.
President Kagame appreciated the EU’s commitment to strengthening Africa-Europe ties, including with the private sector. “We look forward to collaborating on equitable access to vaccines and improved management of current and future pandemics,” he said.
Michel met Kagame together with EU Member of Parliament, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou alongside Secretary General of the La Francophonie, Louise Mushikiwabo. “Thank you for your work to support multilateral cooperation in the fight against COVID-19,” Kagame expressed gratitude later in the evening.
Earlier in the day, Michel had travelled to the countryside, in Mayange Health Centre, to witness the inoculation of first anti-COVID-19 vaccines distributed by COVAX, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and others.
EU is one of the main contributors to this international solidarity initiative, Germany being the major contributor, with the plan to deliver close to 2 billion doses of COVID 19 vaccines globally in 2021 including at least 1.3 billion to the 92 economies eligible for support through the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC).
On Wednesday March 4, Rwanda received about 340,000 shots of vaccines from COVAX, (240,000 of the AstraZeneca/Oxford and 102,000 of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA).
Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, a medical doctor, had the opportunity to join Mayange Health Centre staff in administering vaccines, before addressing residents. Rwandan health workers and other priority populations vulnerable to COVID-19 have received the life-saving coronavirus vaccines since Friday.
By Sunday evening about 160,000 Rwandans had been vaccinated under a meticulous exercise.
By Sunday, March 7, Rwanda had recorded 19,551 infections at least 268 deaths, 1443 active cases, 17,840 recoveries and 198,453 vaccinations administered.
“Nobody will be safe until everybody is,” Michel said after the tour.
Meanwhile, GAVI CEO, Seth Berkley, also commended Rwanda for setting an important example by “having a clear vaccination strategy that prioritizes those most at-risk and vulnerable. “Great to see that work begin!” he said on Sunday afternoon.
Abolish Covid Certificate Travel Rule, Says African Airlines Association
Covid-19 certificate may not be necessary for passengers intending to travel across the African continent and thus the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) wants states to abolish it.
AFRAA says the travel industry is reeling from the adverse impact of the re-introduction of travel restrictions and implementation of blanket travel bans since the onset of the Omicron variant.
The airline lobby also wants governments and stakeholders to harmonise the health protocols, reconsider the bans and adopt a risk-based approach in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
“States should not impose Covid-19 vaccination certificates as a mandatory travel entry and exit requirement until there is satisfactory access to vaccines globally, reasonable vaccination coverage is attained, and sufficient guidance on the use of the vaccine for travel is available based on recommendations of the WHO,” said AFRAA secretary general, Abdérahmane Berthé.
He said 2021 marked the dawn of recovery with positive trends in air transport activity being witnesses across the globe pointing out that as of October 2021, African airlines had reopened 81.3% of their international routes that had been closed due to the pandemic.
“African cargo capacity grew by 33% since 2019 and cargo load factors improved by 9% from pre-pandemic levels,” he said.
“The travel restrictions and blanket bans are a huge risk to the gains made in the recovery of the travel ecosystem. Furthermore, air transport connectivity and economic sustainability of airlines’ operations will be negatively impacted.”
AFRAA, he said, recognises that a risk-based approach and the safe reopening of borders are critical for the efficient restart of aviation but urged the governments to remove border restrictions and open their markets to restart the industry.
AFRAA recommends that States continue with pre-departure testing until vaccines become widespread, with States transitioning to the use of Rapid Antigen Testing as an alternative to PCR, some of which have been proven to have similar reliability to PCR, is significantly cheaper and takes within 30 minutes for results.
To address credibility of test/vaccination certificates, AFRAA wants Governments to continue to adopt digital Covid-19 test/vaccination certificates wherever possible as verifiable health credentials and as a trusted platform for traveler information.
The agency wants States to implement rapid roll-out of vaccines across the continent to facilitate the restart of economies and Air Transport.
Confusion Surrounding Full Vaccination Explained
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, many people are wondering how many jabs should one receive to be regarded as a fully vaccinated person due to the fact the vaccinations seem endless.
Nonetheless, it has emerged globally that for a person to be fully vaccinated he or she must get a booster vaccine.
According to the Ministry of Health recent updates, a booster shot is a must for those who received the first and second shot so as to boost their immunity.
As a result, the full protection of Covid-19 is now principle for Rwandans living abroad and all outgoing passengers according to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
“For a person to be fully vaccinated is a principle for Rwandans going out,” the Rwanda Biomedical Centre forewarned unvaccinated travelers.
Amidst these, there is a concern of mixing jabs which medical personnel assures has no side effects, which the Ministry of Health cleared airs that boosters are approved by Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Rwanda FDA and the World Health Organization, therefore that mixing vaccines offer greater protection.
The US Food and Drug authority in a press release on Monday, said that “the single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine provides continued protection against COVID-19 and the associated serious consequences that can occur including hospitalization and death.”
In addition, the agency determined that more than 6, 300 individuals 12 through 15 years of age who received a booster dose of the vaccine at least 5 months following completion of the primary two-dose vaccination series were safe.
Globally, a number of countries are advising their citizens to have booster vaccines to strengthen their immunity.
For instance, the government of Singapore has confirmed that beginning with 14 February 2022, any person who didn’t get booster Covid-19 will lose vaccination status.
The Singaporean Ministry of Health warned that individuals should take their booster vaccination from around five months after completing the primary vaccination after 9 months.
The Ministry wrote; “Upon receiving their booster, they will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated beyond 270 days.”
The European countries under the EU have also urged their citizens to get booster Covid-19 as a way of getting fully vaccinated as the only way of protection.
“We urge all EU citizens to get fully vaccinated and follow the recommendations on booster vaccination,” the EU Medicine Agency writes.
Meanwhile, the Israel Government is inoculating the fourth Covid-19 vaccine on health workers as a demonstration to see whether the second round of boosters can help to contain the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
However, some like the US, it’s too early for them to discuss potential booster dose of Coronavirus vaccine for most people
“I think it’s early to be talking about a fourth dose,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told reporters.
Rwanda Resuces Time For Booster Vaccine Jabs To Three Months
The Ministry of Health has announced that people who received the second dose in the last three months can now get the Covid-19 booster vaccine instead of waiting for six months.
The announcement has opened doors to all recipients who received all doses but were waiting six months to get the booster vaccine.
“The waiting time for the Covid-19 booster dose has been reduced to three months from six months. Rwandans who meet these criteria are encouraged to get a booster shot at their nearest health Centre or vaccinate,” the announcement reads.
The Covid-19 booster vaccines increase the immunity against the new variant.
The covid-19 booster vaccine was introduced last month by the Ministry of Health to people who were given two doses of vaccines.
Meanwhile, medical research has indicated that after six months, the immunity provided by the Covid-19 starts to shrink and it requires a booster vaccine for full immunity.
The Minister of State, in Charge of Primary Health Care, Tharcisse Mpunga, says that the booster Covid-19 will be given starting Thursday.
“The Ministry of Health will start the program of giving booster vaccines in the city of Kigali beginning with the elderly from 50 years and above and 30 to 49-year-old with chronic diseases or those who have diseases that can reduce their immunity as well as the health workers.”
Mpunga said the immunization will take place in health centers, district hospitals and other vaccinations centers. “It will be done in stages, starting with the City of Kigali but other areas will follow soon,” Mpunga added.
Vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm jabs are administered twice while Johnson & Johnson are administered once.
Experts have already shown that booster vaccines are expected to be stronger vaccines than earlier ones.
More than 5.9 million Rwandans have been vaccinated and 3.3 million fully vaccinated while 80% of Rwandans received the second dose according to officials.
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