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Iran Press TV

Indian states run out of COVID-19 vaccines, Brazil tops 400,000 fatality mark

Iran Press TV

Friday, 30 April 2021 10:48 AM

Several Indian states have run out of coronavirus vaccines a day prior to a planned broadening of a nationwide vaccination drive amid a surge of new cases in the country to yet another daily record, officials have announced.

India's Health Ministry reported Friday 386,452 new infections in the past 24 hours, during which the number of fatalities bounced by nearly 3,500, though local medical experts believe the actual COVID-19 figures may be five- to 10-fold higher.

The world's second-most populous nation remains in deep crisis as hospitals and morgues are overwhelmed by the pandemic with medicine and oxygen in short supply and strict limits on movement imposed in the country's largest cities.

Although India is the world's biggest producer of vaccines, it does not have enough stockpiles to keep up with the second deadly COVID-19 wave even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has announced plans to vaccinate all adults starting May 1.

Only about nine percent of India's 1.4 billion people have received a vaccine dose since January.

Modi was scheduled to meet cabinet ministers on Friday as the surge in infections cripples the nation's health system and threatens to affect major industries. Absenteeism in offices and businesses is also rising with staff falling sick or taking leave to care for sick relatives.

Modi has been widely criticized for permitting massive political rallies and religious festivals which have been super-spreader events in recent weeks.

India had originally planned to vaccinate only 300 million of its highest-risk people by August, but it broadened the target due to surging infections.

This is while the country's two vaccine producers were already struggling to increase their capacity beyond 80 million doses a month due to a shortage of raw materials and a fire at the Serum Institute that manufactures AstraZeneca's vaccine in India.

India will receive a first batch of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine on May 1. Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund, which markets Sputnik V globally, has signed deals with five Indian manufacturers for more than 850 million vaccine doses a year.

Prominent US disease modeler Chris Murray from the University of Washington said the sheer magnitude of infections in India in a short period of time suggests an "escape variant" may be overpowering any prior immunity from natural infections in those populations.

Brazil tops 400,000 corona deaths

Brazil emerged as the second country in the world to officially top the 400,000 COVID-19 fatality mark, losing 100,000 more lives just within the past month, with health experts warning of dreadful days ahead as the Southern Hemisphere enters winter.

On Thursday, the country's Health Ministry announced another 3,001 deaths, bring Brazil's total to 401,186.

The month of April was the deadliest of the pandemic for South America's largest and most populous nation, with thousands of people losing their lives daily at crowded hospitals.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who is now being investigated by a Senate panel over his administration's handling of the crisis, has reiterated that he will be the last to get a shot. He has attacked mayors and governors who enforce restrictions to control the virus' spread.

Less than six percent of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.

Epidemiologist Wanderson Oliveira, one of the Health Ministry's top officials at the start of the pandemic, said he expects a third wave to hit by mid-June.

Alarm grows in Africa

Africa is "watching with total disbelief" as India struggles with the devastating revival of COVID-19 infections, amid fears among African about delays in vaccine deliveries caused by India's crisis.

The African continent, with roughly the same population as India and fragile health systems, "must be very, very prepared" since a similar scenario could happen here, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkengasong said on Thursday.

"What is happening in India cannot be ignored by our continent," he said, urging African countries to avoid mass gatherings including political rallies.

"We do not have enough health care workers, we do not have enough oxygen," he warned.

Nkengasong said India's export ban on vaccines "has severely impacted the predictability of the rollout of vaccination programs and will continue to do so for the coming weeks and perhaps months".

"We are living in a world that is extremely uncertain now."

Africa's vaccine supply heavily relies on India, whose Serum Institute is the source of the AstraZeneca vaccines distributed by the global COVAX project to get doses to low- and middle-income countries.

Just 17 million vaccine doses have been administered across the African continent for a population of nearly 1.3 billion, according to the Africa CDC.

Only 43 million tests for the virus have been conducted across the African continent since the pandemic began, with a 26-percent drop in new tests conducted in the past week.

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