Community health workers in 25 of 30 districts Rwanda have been armed with gear that protects them against rain, the scotching sun and while maneuvering through impassable terrain.
Imbuto foundation said on Friday, “We donated weather protective equipment to Community Health Workers in 25 districts. These materials include uniforms, rain suits, boots and umbrellas.”
The foundation added that this donation was possible through partnership with the ministry of Health and Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
Community health workers are a vital component of the Rwanda health care system because they traverse the country’s landscape classified as mountainous to deliver services to communities in each village. They are coordinated by the Community Health Desk of the Ministry of Health.
They mobilise the community on advantages of immunization, family planning services, malaria prevention and treatment. They are instrumental in nutrition surveillance program and they also help in efforts on TB and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Each district is divided into sectors, which are further divided into cells and finally into villages, Imidugudu. On average, a village can accommodate 50 to 150 households.
Every village has four CHWs. Each village has a maternal health worker responsible for identification of pregnant women, antenatal care visits, and ensuring delivery at health facilities.
Despite current health achievements, like many African countries the CHW program in Rwanda still faces significant challenges that hinder delivery of the quality of the comprehensive package of services.
These challenges range from low capacity of CHWs, to insufficient resources to sustain routine community health activities including cooperatives, training, and refresher training, to reinforcing supply systems, to purchasing equipment, to upgrading infrastructures needed to deliver more health services to the community.
Effectively addressing these challenges will significantly contribute to the achievement of the national health targets.
New Study Reveals Russian Vaccine Less Effective Against South African Variant
Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine appears significantly less effective in combating the South African variant of the virus, a new laboratory study of 12 cases has shown.
Scientists in the U.S. used blood samples from Argentinians who had been vaccinated with Sputnik V to investigate whether the antibodies they had produced would effectively fight various mutations of the virus which have been designated “variants of concern” by the global health community.
The researchers found that the immune response produced against variant B1.351 — the strain first identified in South Africa — was “markedly reduced” compared with the reaction to the initial coronavirus strains.
Sputnik V was also less effective in combating all variants with the E484K mutation — a specific mutation, nicknamed “Eek” by some scientists, which is present in the South African and Brazilian variants of the virus, and has recently been discovered in the U.S. and Japan.
“Sera from Sputnik vaccine recipients in Argentina had a median 6.1-fold and 2.8-fold reduction in neutralizing potency against B.1.351 and the E484K mutant spike, respectively,” the study said.
In eight of the 12 cases — 67% — the researchers found antibody responses that were “indicative of a failure to neutralize” against the South African variant, pointing to “markedly reduced neutralization titers” in the blood samples.
The results appear to contradict earlier statements by Russia’s health watchdog that claimed Sputnik V provided effective protection against variants of the virus.
No research into the effectiveness of the Sputnik V vaccine against virus mutations in the real world has been published.
The researchers added that Sputnik V was “likely to retain strong efficacy at preventing severe Covid-19, even in the case of infection by variants of concern,” but said their data pointed to a “concerning potential of B1.351 [the South African strain], and to a lesser extent, any variant carrying the E484K substitution, to escape the neutralizing antibody responses that this immunization elicits.”
This study — led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York — was based on laboratory analysis using blood from 12 people who had been vaccinated with Sputnik V.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is based on similar adenovirus technology to Sputnik V, has also previously been found to deliver less effective protection against mild and moderate infections from the South African variant, although in a clinical trial with 2,000 participants there were no reported severe cases, suggesting vaccines may still be effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
The study into Sputnik V also found that the jab appeared to be effective in preventing infection with the British variant of the virus — with antibody responses at a similar level to those noted in the peer-reviewed research into Sputnik V’s overall effectiveness, which was conducted and published before virus mutations had been identified.
The Sputnik V jab was found to have 91.6% efficacy against Covid-19 in a paper published in The Lancet.
The British variant has shown faster transmissibility rates — becoming the dominant strain of the virus in the U.K. and many other European countries — as well as higher mortality rates.
The head of Russia’s Rospotrebnadzor consumer watchdog, which is leading the country’s response against the pandemic, said only six cases of the South African variant have been detected in Russia.
In an interview with the Izvestia newspaper, Anna Popova added that 81 cases of the British variant have been detected.
She also warned Russians against unnecessary travel and said border closures had helped keep mutations of the coronavirus largely out of Russia.
“Since the Sputnik vaccine is now widely in use not only in Russia, but also in countries like Argentina, Chile, and Hungary, where some of the variants of concern … are more widespread, it is critical to assess the neutralizing activity of Sputnik vaccine-elicited antibody responses against these variants and mutant spikes,” the researchers noted.
Argentina’s president, who was vaccinated with Sputnik V, tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. He was experiencing only mild symptoms, which his doctors credited to having received the jab.
Delaying Vaccinations Raises Chances Of new Variants – Rockefeller
Rockefeller Foundation, an American private foundation that seeks to improve lives and the planet, and unleashing human potential, through innovation has released a 22-page report detailing a quick plan on ending Covid-19 Pandemic.
According to the foundation, a plan to end the Covid-19 pandemic by speeding up immunizations could be financed through a record asset allocation via the International Monetary Fund.
Rockefeller Foundation notes that the IMF should approve and swiftly distribute $650 billion in additional reserve assets to help developing economies vaccinate as much as 70% of their populations by the end of next year, the Rockefeller Foundation said in a report Monday.
Delaying immunizations raises the likelihood new variants will emerge that could cause “rolling outbreaks resulting in further economic shutdowns,” according to the report, whose contributors include former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of economics at Columbia University in New York.
“Vaccine-resistant variants that mutate in one under-vaccinated country can quickly spread to one that’s been immunized,” said Rajiv J. Shah, president of the New York-based foundation, in the report.
“Current vaccination plans and the funding behind them are simply not enough to protect us all.” The report details ways to leverage a large issuance and reallocation of IMF special drawing rights — an international reserve asset created in 1969 — which can be exchanged for freely-usable currencies.
The report calls for wealthier countries to commit to voluntarily reallocating at least $100 billion of their unneeded drawing rights to provide further support to the developing world.
If approved, the new allocation would add a substantial, direct liquidity boost to countries without swelling debt burdens, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said last month. A formal proposal is slated to be presented to the IMF board in June.
Financing from the World Bank, the IMF and regional development banks, including mobilized private capital, needs to increase by $400 billion to $500 billion a year as the world recovers from the pandemic to help assure a broad and sustainable rebound in emerging and developing countries, according to the report.
If the virus is allowed to spread in countries with low vaccination rates, it’s likelier to mutate and generate variants that could bypass protection from inoculations, the report said.
As a result, even countries with high vaccination rates would be vulnerable. The world is 4-to-6 times more likely to get a new variant from an under-vaccinated country that isn’t a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development than from a fully protected OECD country, it said.
For every $1 spent on supplying poorer countries with vaccines, high-income countries would get back about $4.80, Rand Corp. said in a research brief last year.
Any plan should incorporate strategies to mitigate the risk of future pandemics by addressing ongoing microbial threats, including antimicrobial resistance, said Olga Jonas, a senior fellow at the Harvard Global Health Institute, in an email.
“What is really needed is an urgent plan for robust core veterinary and human public-health systems in all low- and middle-income countries,” said Jonas, who worked for more than three decades at the World Bank, including as an economist specializing in pandemics.
Without such systems, any recovery will disappear when another outbreak isn’t controlled and becomes the next pandemic, she said.
“The likelihood that it happens next year or in five years has not decreased because we already had a pandemic,” Jonas said. “There will be another one.”
Prof Happi Proposes Covid-19 Vaccine Made in Africa For Africa
Professor Christian Tientcha Happi is a Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics in the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Director African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemer’s University.
He holds a BSc in Biochemistry, MSc and PhD in Molecular Parasitology from the University of Ibadan in 1993, 1995 and 2000 respectively.
He did his post-doctoral research in Molecular Biology and Genomics at Harvard University, School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA (2000-2003, ).
He is currently the Director, Directorate of Research Innovations and Partnerships (DRIPs), Redeemer’s University.
He has carried out research focus on Human Genomics, Molecular Biology and Genomics of Infectious Diseases, especially Malaria, Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers (Lassa fever, Ebola Virus Disease, and HIV among others.
His laboratory confirmed the first case of Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria in the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and work with Nigerian Health Officials for the successful containment of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.
In this interview, he talked about how they developed the rapid diagnostic test kit for covid, which can give result within 10 minutes to 15 minutes.
He also talked about the need to encourage Nigerians to be vaccinated because the COVID-19 vaccine is efficacious and that it has been demonstrated all over the world that people that take the vaccine, protect themselves against the virus infection.
Here is an excerpt from the interview.
Current Research Interest
My research focus is on Human Genomics, Molecular Biology and Genomics of Infectious Diseases, especially Malaria, Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers (Lassa fever, Ebola Virus Disease, and others), and HIV.
My current research activities consist of using innovative approaches that combine patient care, fieldwork, laboratory, molecular biology and genomics methods for discoveries that have shifted the paradigm in clinical research and applications in parasites and viral diagnosis, parasites biology and genomics, Pharmacogenomics, and human genomics.
Also, I am passionate about building research capacity and human resource through training and mentoring activities.
Through my research, we have been able to identify molecular markers of antimalarial drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum, the agent of malaria.
We recently discovered new viruses (EKV-1 and EKV-2 and developed new rapid diagnoses for Ebola virus disease (EVD), and Lassa fever virus.
My laboratory confirmed the first case of Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria in the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and work with Nigerian Health Officials for the successful containment of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.
Research work in my laboratory contributed significantly to the establishment of the global reference for human genetic variation.
Our research work has also resulted in the identification of new genes associated with human resistance to infection to the Lassa fever virus.
I have been working in the space of infectious diseases in the past 22 years, across west Africa Lassa fever, ebola, monkeypox, yellow fever and covid.
The genomic works that I have been doing over the past 12 years hemorrhagic fever is mainly to understand the nature of the virus and leverage those information and translate it to tools like a point of care diagnostic, also things like a vaccine.
We are also very much involved in capacity building, so we set up one of the best genomic platforms where we are training what we call a critical mass of young Africans so Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomic infectious diseases that I am the founder and director, is to create what we call academic and research environment that transcend national boundaries, where young Africans can actually use that platform to express their God-given talent and then use such platform to do genomics for public health, development of the continent so in so doing, we are basically focusing on training what we refer to as critical mass African scientists that can annex the knowledge and skill, tools of genomics to address problem of infectious disease and specifically control and elimination, eradication of infectious disease.
In addition to that, we are building a new genomic curriculum that applies to infectious disease. Also, we are engaging the public health community in education.
That is what we have been doing in the past decade; overall our goal is basically to build the next generation of what is called African pathogen hunters, doing this in Africa, with Africa in collaboration with friends, colleague and partners outside so that we can stop playing what I call orphans instead of defence.
Because what we see today, is that anytime there is an outbreak or epidemic of diseases somewhere the world start battling, but I think now we need to start thinking of how we can use the skill and knowledge that we have to start uncovering those viruses and develop countermeasures before they come to us.
That is the countermeasure we are taking now and we are going to be leveraging on platform and skill, the talent we are grooming.
Fast track test kit for covid-19?
We can develop one of the fastest rapid diagnostic test kits for covid-19 in the world, before that we did something five days or within a week after the first case of covid was announced in Nigeria, we can come up with e-sub-screening test tools in Nigeria and link that up with other local government and Yaba Hospital.
Then we went on to develop the rapid diagnostic test kit for covid, how did we do that?
We did that because we were the lab that reconfirmed the very first case in Lagos that was tested by PCR, NCDC sent the sample to us and we can confirm it.
We did that speedily. We set up the record that nobody is ever able to beat in the world, from sample collection to releasing data on the international genomic platform call G-SET, it took us 72 hours.
This process usually takes weeks but we did it in 72 hours. And it is base on that particular sequence and other sequences that follow that we went on to develop diagnose test kit.
This test kit is faster and cheaper, in which within 10 minutes to 15 minutes you will have the result.
You don’t need to collect a blood sample, just saliva and you don’t need a specialized laboratory.
It is the test that is mostly adopted for Africa because you don’t need a highly specialized lab. It is just like a pregnancy test, another thing is that it targets the virus RNA and it is very precise and specific.
Research funding in Africa?
I don’t think African countries see any value in research, African leaders promised that they are going to dedicate 2 per cent of their GDP to support research but they are not doing it only a few countries like Rwanda are dedicating about 0.5% towards research.
So that is a problem, you cannot make progress, as a nation if you do not fund education and research and that is the reason Africa is over-dependent on other countries for everything.
It’s evident even during this covid-19 when we over-dependent on international communities for everything from PPE, to Vaccine, we are depending on international communities.
Africa’s independence will only come when they invest in research and take responsibility for their problem and when they start to look inward in finding a solution to their problems.
It is obvious that we are at the mercy of different countries we do not produce anything, we are consumers, not producers, which puts us in a weak and vulnerable position.
That is the fact we can’t shy away from. The truth of the matter is, as long as Africa does not invest in research and develop her capacity and addresses her problems, we will continue to be weak and exploited and at the back of the queue.
Research and innovation in addressing our developmental challenges in Africa?
The only way to do that is investment through the private sector and government establishment.
Funding research is not only the responsibility of the government, but the private sector also need to be involved but unfortunately in Africa, private sector investment is nothing on research.
What you see in Africa people that can invest in research refuse to do so, what they do is to go to Harvard or Cambridge to donate, to an institution where their money will not make any impact.
They ignore where they should put their money and go elsewhere because they have an inferiority complex.
If there is any lesson to learn I think they would have seen through this pandemic that it is better to invest in your country than to go elsewhere because during the pandemic everybody was on lockdown and they couldn’t fly around with a private jet.
Investment in research in Africa academic will be very helpful because Africa needs to develop. Secondly, when you look at Africa, one of the reasons why Africa is stagnant is simply because there is no brain circulation in Africa. knowledge does not circulate in Africa.
The reason why I’m saying this is because it’s a shame in Africa that we can’t have Africa research circulating moving from one country to another sharing knowledge. It is easier for African to go abroad to share knowledge than to share with African counterpart.
What are your thoughts about the Covid-19 vaccine?
Firstly, the COVID-19 vaccine is efficacious. And it has been demonstrated all over the world that people that take the vaccine, protect themselves against the virus infection.
The AstraZeneca vaccine that is in Nigeria, we should encourage people to take it. I also understand the fears of the people because this vaccine is foreign so people are afraid.
If anything to go by and the Africa government are listening, is basically that people in Africa are telling them that they don’t have confidence in the vaccine that is coming from outside Africa. And the message is that fund vaccine that will emanate from Africa.
I can tell you that Africans will be more comfortable if they hear that the vaccine emanated from Africa. I hope our government will listen to the masses.
The people are telling our leaders that they are tired of using imported things. Imported vaccines among other things am not against the fact that they are good but the message is that we will trust vaccine made in Africa by our researchers more than what is coming from outside.
That is why you are seeing vaccine resistance and apathy. People want to see what is made by their people so that they will be very comfortable using it.
Misconception about COVID-19?
Covid-19 is real, people should take necessary precautions if we did not respect the safety rules it will be difficult to get rid of this disease even if the vaccine is given out.
Even with the availability of the vaccine, people should continue to protect themselves.
Adapted from Vanguard
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