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Sweden Retracts Vaccine Stored Under Wrong Temperatures
Europe

Sweden Retracts Vaccine Stored Under Wrong Temperatures

The country that was boasting about combating the Corona Virus through herd immunity has failed yet again, in mitigating the virus spread, as it administered vaccines to its Swedes stored at the wrong temperature while being transported. 

Swedish medical facilities have landed up giving some 1000 patients the Covid-19 vaccine stored in the wrong temperature. All those administered the doses were medical professionals. A total of 2100 such doses were stored in wrong temperature.  They amount to 20percent of what Sweden had to receive and were (unfortunately) stored in rather low temperature.

Apparently, there was a problem with delivery itself.  As of now, there have been so side effects, but those administered are being observed for any adverse reactions. The other doses have been withheld for further investigation to ascertain whether their efficacy remains effective even after they were stored on low temperatures while being transported. 

Before this, Sweden has made use of the Pfizer vaccine candidate and has inoculated more than 1.4 million of its population.  

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The currently authorized mRNA vaccines have been found to provide up to 95% immunity against COVID-19. Further, vaccine research specialists have also ascertained that both the Pfizer and Morderna vaccines are so similar that both can be used interchangeably in order a patient gets two jobs in the interval of 28 days. This has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while they are still trying to decipher if the efficacy of the medication is affected if used interchangeably. 

Both have made use of the messenger RNA technology. 

AS the scare around the mutated virus increases, there will be the need to either tweak the vaccine or to ensure that the existing one can fight the possibly resilient Corona virus. According to vaccine researchers, tweaking the recipe wouldn’t be difficult for vaccines made with newer technologies. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a piece of the virus genetic code that is simple to switch. 

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan
Middle East & Africa

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan

One of the poorer nations of the world, Lebanon is now getting a medical financial stimulus from the World Bank, official reports have confirmed. The World Bank has approved $34million to back the Lebanese Covid-19 vaccination drive. 

This is the first such huge outlay of funds by the bank. Previously, Lebanon has taken several loans from the bank to keep its economy from sinking. Since the pandemic broke out, the country has been struggling with the constant outbreaks and an unfortunate burn of a strategic port that led to a major scare and distrust amongst common people over the administration of the government. 

Funds have been reallocated from an existing Lebanon Health Resilient Project.  The Lebanese government has signed up for receiving the American Pfizer vaccine for 2.1 million doses. Lebanon already has a fractured medical system that has been losing its back over a surge in infection rates. 

According to the Lebanon Health Ministry, the vaccines will arrive by February.  These doses will be priced at $18 looking at Lebanon’s financial condition and the whole cost is covered under the World Bank financial assistance. 

Additionally, Lebanon would also receive another 2.7 million doses from the UN-led Covax program that caters to poorer countries like Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Libya. These doses are expected to arrive no sooner than the mid of the year. These work on the mechanism of richer countries donating a percentage of their doses stocks to the poorer nations, once their own people are inoculated. 

Once known for its advanced medical services in the Middle East, Lebanon today stands to manage its falling bricks. There is a convergence of stresses on the health care system. There are many reasons for this. But the major reasons that stand out include lack of up-to-date infrastructure; lack of medical personnel due to high emigration rates among doctors; and difficulties in obtaining medical supplies due to the devaluation of the Lebanese currency and reduced imports. 

Biden Promise Shows Shift Towards Quick Economic Recovery Road
Americas

Biden Promise Shows Shift Towards Quick Economic Recovery Road

As Joe Biden was sworn in as the new American dream for a better tomorrow, discussions around his stimulus package are already doing rounds in the political circuit. 

The bottom line drawn is that the seriousness and vow of delivery will entirely depend on the effectiveness of his stimulus package.  According to a former economic advisor to Obama, Biden indeed has a tough task at hand as he is “inheriting among the worst crises a president has stepped into.”

An old saying goes that ‘the first 100 days tests the effectiveness of someone’s leadership’. Indeed, Biden will have all the opportunity to test his from the beginning.  He would need to move in lightening speed, to repair damage and create some immediate buttressing of the fractured economy. Critics feel he has the right experience having worked under Obama as Vice President. 

Reversing the damage course, as soon as he was sworn, he quickly signed off 17 executive orders. They included extending a pause on student loan payments, renewing an eviction moratorium, and rejoining the Paris climate accords.

There is hope when Biden makes announcements about collective strength and desire to bring together the bipartisanship and unite Americans after almost four years of divided chaos under Donald Trump.  According to economists, there is a need for robust input of finances to help the economy to get back on its feet. 

Biden has already introduced a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan last week building on an earlier federal rescue package. The plan includes relief provisions like enhanced unemployment insurance through September, aid to state and local governments, vaccine funds, and new stimulus checks.

Biden has also said he would unveil a second major plan during a joint session of Congress next month to unleash new federal investments into infrastructure, childcare and manufacturing.

Currently, the infection numbers in America have out past those even killed in the World War II, amounting to 4.5 million. Around 10 million less Americans have jobs due to the ongoing corona virus strain on the economy. Much of the economic burden has fallen squarely on women and minority communities, who have suffered larger job losses. Last week, employers have said to have shed 140,000 jobs, not making things any further pleasant that they already are. 

France Might Wish To Legalize Cannabis
Europe

France Might Wish To Legalize Cannabis

With the way Cannabis is being consumed in France, there are chances it could certify legal use of the same.  What had started to remain banned since the 1700s, is starting to get acceptance in France. 

The political stance is softening towards it; so is the commerciality of it, as shops are starting to keep some kind of legalized cannabis for consumption. Strangely, shopkeepers have found a loophole in the French law; encouraging them to sell a certain form of cannabis. 

According to French law, if the amount of THC is less than 0.2percent, it is considered legal to sell it to patrons. So, shops are now selling it as a tea variant and patrons could buy it off the shelf, with a cashier ready to give a receipt for the sale too. 

Cannabis is said to contain over 113 different types of drug but it is the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that causes the psychoactive, or mind-altering, impacts. Many dealers sell cannabis with THC levels of 10-15%. This is way beyond the permissible limits. 

Now, France is looking at the medical use of cannabis while some mayors have been asked to give suggestions about the possibility of ‘decriminalizing’ the use of cannabis. Some regions of France have a high rate of trafficking. President Emmanuel Macron brought in ‘on the spot’ fines in 2018, where police can fine users up to €200 ($242) although it is still not considered decriminalized and judges can deliver harsh penalties if they see fit.

Many other countries in Europe have legal use of cannabis.  These include Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland too.  Probably, Macron’s softer stance might also win himself a favourable vote bank after all. 

Why Balkan Countries Are Refusing To Be Immunized?
Europe

Why Balkan Countries Are Refusing To Be Immunized?

Balkan Countries: The Southeastern European nations are seemingly skeptical over the vaccine candidates doing round in the markets.  Some critics feel that the pandemic has become an excuse to forward ‘global manipulation’. 

Strangely, a study conducted by the Europe Policy Advisory Group for the Balkan states (it was published before the regional vaccination campaign started in December 2020) concluded shockingly that virus conspiracy theories were actually affecting people’s decisions to receive the vaccination. This amounted to nearly 80 percent of the citizens residing in Western Balkan countries. Apparently, these are the same countries that are also striving to join the European Union. About half of them will refuse to get vaccinated, it said.

We are referring specifically to countries like the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria that are also running anti campaigns against Russian and Chinese made Covid19 vaccines. 

The anti skepticism has flown down to ex-presidents, former doctors and sportsmen too. For example Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has been foolhardy with his and his family’s health, travelling on tennis tours, refusing to be inoculated. 

There is a general buzz that through the vaccine, Russia is trying to insert a microchip into the bloodstream of the users. Serbia does not hold Russia is good esteem and it has historic reasons for that. 

Serbian politicians are going on national television to declare safety of the vaccine. They are getting themselves inoculated there. But this isn’t having the desired effect. But even Siberian politicians are divided between the EU approved or the Russian vaccine- there are reasons to favor one over the other. 

In Bosnia too, there is a huge divide. An amalgamation between Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs, the country is favoring the Russian over other Western options. In Bulgaria too, there is mistrust due to lack of proper information about the vaccine and its effects. They faced major resistance over the spread of measles earlier too. The trend continues with Covid-19. According to the Gallup International Poll, majority of the population is against getting itself inoculated. 

In the Czech Republic, where surveys show some 40% reject vaccination, protesters at a big rally against government virus restrictions in Prague demanded that vaccinations not be mandatory. Former President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce critic of the government’s pandemic response, told the crowd that vaccines are not a solution.

Hungary that had been walking its own pace, going against the EU, has now taken a hard stand against anyone ‘scaremongering’ that is dissuading people to get themselves inoculated. Such trouble makers will be persecuted; but the rate of immunization has not gone up. It dwindles on 30percent. 

Herd immunization did not work well; a robust vaccine immunization drive is the only thing that can save these nations from fighting the more deadly form of mutated Corona virus that is challenging nations like the UK presently. 

Ethiopia Plays Double Game Sudan Protests
Middle East & Africa

Ethiopia Plays Double Game Sudan Protests

Sudan Protests: Sudan is up and arms against Ethiopia over the latter sending its military planes into Sudanese airspace. 

It is being considered an ‘unjustified and dangerous’ escalation between the nations that had recently been subsided. Further armed Ethiopian gangs have also taken lives in the Sudanese area. 

Sudanese military, Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan said that Ethiopians have been attacking in their last for close to two decades. 

This is with regards to the disputed al-Fashaga area.

In December, both sides had formed a committee to come on a common ground over the Al-Fashaga area, but the fresh attack seems to show that the Ethiopian side does not solicit the agreement at all. 

 In fact, it seems that the Ethiopian military has taken advantage of the internal strife that has broken out in the Tigray region and attacked the disputed land. This was communicated by the Ethiopian ambassador in Khartoum, Mulugeta Zewde.

In response, the Ambassador to Ethiopia, Yibeltal Aemero has shifted the blame on Sudan instead, saying that “Very recently, in the first week of November 2020, we witnessed unprecedented military incursion by the Sudan while the joint special committee was still in progress and when the Ethiopian National Defense forces moved to Tigray region on November, 4, 2020 for the law enforcement majors, the Sudanese army took the advantage and entered deep inside Ethiopian territory, looted properties, burned camps, detained, attacked and killed the Ethiopians while displacing thousands.”

The recent attacks have led to displacements in more than 34 Sudanese villages. The reality is explicit and could lead to another major confrontation between Sudan and Ethiopian sides. 

Who Is Going To Fit Into Angela Merkel’s Shoes?
Europe

Who Is Going To Fit Into Angela Merkel’s Shoes?

Angela Merkel: It is not going to be easy to step into Angela Merkel’s shoes, who decided in 2018 itself that she would not run for re-elections.  The word is already out that of the three contenders eyeing her the German Chancellor’s role will have to be ‘rookie’. 

A forthcoming virtual voting comprising of 1000 or more delegates will decide the German fate soon. It will also mean new leadership for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the ruling conservative party that goes into an election mode over the weekend.

As this goes into motion, it will set out a series of events. This will comprise he CDU convention is the opening act to several regional elections in the spring, and the final federal, nationwide, vote in September that will see chancellor Angela Merkel leave office.

The most prominent and promising is millionaire lawyer Friedrich Merz who was shunned by Merkel in 2002, when he exited from the party and his role as she stepped in. Merz is now promising to take the party back to its conservative, neoliberal roots. While the elections for the CDU Convention will not decide the final Chancellor, it set the tones for the nation. 

Also in the race is the 59-year-old Armin Laschet, a state premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, and an establishment CDU figure, who portrays himself as the natural heir to Merkel.

A 55-year-old Norbert Röttgen chairs the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, and has run a digitally-savvy campaign, and espouses a more active foreign policy. There is also Bavarian premier Markus Söder from the Christian Social Union, the sister party to the CDU, and health minister Jens Spahn in the race for the Chancellorship, a position Merkel well held and commanded for over a decade.

Why Caucasians Bank On the WHO-Covax Vaccine Programme
Geopolitics

Why Caucasians Bank On the WHO-Covax Vaccine Programme

WHO-Covax Vaccine Programme: If you are a part of the Caucasia region, chances are you will need a strong friendship with the more powerful nations around you, to get hold of the best efficacy Covid-19 vaccine

The South Caucasian nations like Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, have realized that they have to remain in good terms with Russia, Turkey and the rest of the West. All of them are aware that they will probably meet the first anniversary of the novel virus, when it hit their counties. But they might still have to wait their turn for the vaccine to start their respective immunization drives. 

In comparison, Turkey, Russia and the rest of West are already underway running their respective immunization drives. While Russia is experimenting dangerously with its own pathogen version (Sputnik V), Turkey has befriended Chinese Sinovac. Other Western regions are making use of either their own vaccine candidates or the ones which have been recognized by prominent medical boards worldwide. 

However, the Caucasian region is going to have to shake hands with one of the top players in the market. The other tunnel to take is the COVAX route. Under the Covax scheme, these nations that actively participated in the development of the vaccine will be given priority under a vaccine ration system. 

This would mean that the Caucasian regions countries that are primarily poor or struggle to get back on their feet after civil wars, could look forward to 2 billion doses. But this will only come through by Spring. They will need more supplies for which they have to knock the right doors. 

While the World Health Organisation’s COVAX scheme was meant to help poor nations secure covid-19 vaccines, it has run into problems due to lack of funds. The COVAX facility currently has 190 participating economies. This includes 98 higher-income economies and 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible. Of these, countries like Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia have expressed their interest in securing the vaccines, and have also paid up hefty amounts to receive required dosages. 

Azerbaijan has contributed the largest $21 million, while Georgia made an advance payment of $4.5 million. But Georgia has its own apprehensions and reservations, if the Covax programme decides to include Russian vaccine candidate to its lot. 

The Caucasian region is banking on the Covax programme heavily and continues to have its fingers crossed. 

Mutated Virus Strains NHS Scares EU Bloc Again
Europe

Mutated Virus Strains NHS Scares EU Bloc Again

NHS Scares EU Bloc: As the UK becomes one of the first countries in Europe to undertake a massive Covid-19 immunization drive, its hospitals are still swamped with virus-infected numbers. 

The new virus strain is spreading faster than the previous one. It has only one agenda on its mind- how to wipe out human race. Now, Europe is wearier than ever. The Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine is said to be able to combat the new vaccine strain. But the numbers are consistently piling up in the UK, while the country vigorously immunizes 200,000 people a day.  

According to Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist who sits on the scientific council that advises the French government on Covid, “the new virus strain is an epidemic inside an existing epidemic. It is spreading faster than the earlier one.”

Currently, the strain of the new virus is being seen in 31 countries outside UK. The spread rate is unclear. The way it has put pressure on the National Health Services (NHS), is raising red flags everywhere in Europe. 

In comparison to the UK, Germany and France has way behind schedule to administer the vaccine. The UK has already covered over 2 million people per day since December 08, when it started its immunization drive. It has the goal of covering as many as 15 million people till the mid of the February. 

However, the new strain is coming with its own challenges. The spread rate is faster. According to the British government’s scientific advisers, the mutated Covid-19 is infecting people faster. Numbers of those infected is running to 100,000 a day. This has (probably) exceeded the spread rate of the first wave in the spring of 2019. ICU beds are reportedly filling rapidly and British PM Boris Johnson has said that oxygen supplies are running short in some areas.

Keeping in mind that the rest of the Europe has taken longer to even approve and then secure the requisite vaccine doses, its ability to handle the smarter mutating version of Corona virus is suspect. Worry is spreading to medical services in the rest of Europe already. 

Since December 2020, In Spain, the number of Covid patients in ICUs in Spain has climbed to 24 percent. Italian ICUs are also seeing more Covid patients, after a drop at the end of last month. In Germany too, intensive-care beds had never emptied — and while hospital admissions are down 8% from a peak at the beginning of the year, officials worry the new strain could quickly refill wards.

Trilateral Talks Lead To Stalemate Over River Nile Dam Project Again
Middle East & Africa

Trilateral Talks Lead To Stalemate Over River Nile Dam Project Again

Nile Dam Project: The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam is not going to be the cementing force between three nations after all. Despite conversations back and forth between the leaders, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are unable to come to a common agreement ground. 

The bone of contention is- which country should be allowed to dominate the experts’ committee. Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said his government insists on maximizing the role of AU experts to have them facilitate the negotiations and bridge the gaps between the three countries. The African Union (AU) is headquartered in Ethiopia. 

But the three countries’ discussion has hit a stalemate when Sudan’s special request to interact with the experts committee was rejected by both Cairo and Addis Ababa. 

On January 3, Sudan had filed a request to arrange a bilateral meeting with the African Union experts before the tripartite ministerial meeting on January 10. Now, the three nations cannot come to common ground over Ethiopia deciding to release water in the dam, as Sudan fears for the safety of its existing dams. 

For Egypt, the Blue Nile is the lifeline. With a population of over 100million, Egypt’s dependency on the Nile is heavy. It uses the river’s water for domestic and agricultural purposes. It therefore believes its role in the dam’s construction is of paramount importance to the existence of the Egyptian people itself.  Almost 85percent of the Blue Nile originates from Ethiopia, which has suggested the plan to construct the dam.

The dam would connect the Blue with the White Nile that originates from Sudan. The construction would actually be able to pull many people out of misery and poverty. For one, it would solve the electricity problem for inhabitants near the river. Another Egyptian and Sudanese insecurity circles around whether Ethiopia would release more water to them, as and when a drought like situation arises. Droughts are becoming common to these nations due to the changing environmental conditions. 

Ironically, the dam is being financed by Ethiopia itself. Technically, it should be the country calling the shorts. Additionally, the dam will also generate 12000 new jobs, apart from generating almost 15,128GWh of power a year from when it becomes operational. This would increase Ethiopia’s power generation capacity four times from its previous capacity. 

Almost 75 percent of the project was completed in July 2020. 

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