By Lisa Vies, Global Information Network
NW YORK (IDN) – The South African firm Aspen may soon be rolling out drugs to combat COVID-19 on the continent after signing a deal with the U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson.
The American pharma company has conducted the only major study testing the efficacy of a single dose of Covid vaccine among 60,000 volunteers. In October, the company announced that the single-dose drug “induced a strong neutralizing antibody response in nearly all participants aged 18 years and older and was generally well tolerated.”
Stephen Saad, CEO of Aspen, commented: “We are particularly pleased to be given the opportunity of providing assistance for patients in need across the world from our South African base.”
Aspen is best known internationally for bringing generic antiretrovirals for HIV to Africa, thereby serving patient populations without access to expensive patented drugs.
While testing has been comparatively limited, the continent appears to have defied the doomsday predictions of global health experts, according to the Washington Post. “The tell-tale signs of severe outbreaks seen elsewhere — crowded hospitals and a spike in deaths — have emerged in only a handful of African countries,” the Post reported.
“Surveys by the World Health Organization have found negligible excess mortality rates in most African countries, reducing suspicion that many Covid-19 deaths are going uncounted.”
“The entire continent of Africa has only seen 46,000 deaths from COVID-19,” “The Daily Show” host and comedian Trevor Noah said in a Nov. 14 Instagram post.
One reason for this figure – slightly over a sixth of the latest U.S. COVID-19 death toll – is the continent’s large population of young, healthy people.
“It is highly unlikely that there is a single, definitive answer as to why this is the case,” Ngoy Nsenga, a Congolese epidemiologist and the WHO’s program manager for emergency response in Africa, was quoted to say.
“Youthful populations, warmer climates, less time indoors, less traveling, less obesity and diabetes, immunities derived from other diseases — even other coronaviruses — are all playing a part, we think. But what distinguishes Africa from other places like Brazil that might share those factors but were still hard-hit are our human interventions.”
Almost all African countries closed their international borders early in the pandemic, the Post pointed out. Many imposed localized lockdowns, curfews and bans on social activities such as bar-going even before notching their first cases.
Nsenga and other experts agreed that while the wearing of masks and social distancing may have been spotty in the beginning, their early implementation along with more heavy-handed measures later on were effective at flattening the curve of infections. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 December 2020]
Photo credit: WHO
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