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Global vaccine effort still behind schedule

The multilateral COVAX program lags as India clamps down on exports

Workers unload a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines in Accra, Ghana, on Wednesday. Associated Press/Photo by Francis Kokoroko/UNICEF

Global vaccine effort still behind schedule

GHANA received the first shipment of coronavirus vaccines under the multilateral program COVAX today—600,000 vials for the country of 30 million that this month has seen a record spike in COVID-19 cases. But the international effort to assist poorer countries remains behind schedule as distribution of vaccines under the European-led effort lags.

INDIA: The Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s chief suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines, says it has been directed to fill domestic needs ahead of export orders in a further delay to vaccinating poor populations largely in the global south. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is filling the gap in the Middle East, Mexico, and elsewhere, but South African officials and others have raised questions about its safety.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Three officials, including the Italian ambassador to Congo, were killed Monday when their humanitarian convoy came under attack north of Goma. The road had previously been cleared as safe for travel.

CHINA: President Joe Biden downplayed Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs—but U.S. allies Canada, France, Britain, and Japan have taken strong steps against China to end Uyghur repression.

Meanwhile: Half of London councils own Chinese-made surveillance cameras and hardware linked to the abuse of Uyghurs. Beijing has made a sham of its 2018 agreement with the Vatican concerning the appointment of Catholic bishops inside China.

UNITED STATES: “We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announcing U.S. intentions to rejoin the rotating United Nations body.

IRAN: A UN working group called for the release of detained Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani after concluding the state arbitrarily detained him. Nadarkhani, first arrested in 2016, is currently serving, along with others, a six-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison. “This is an answered prayer,” one church leader told advocacy group CSW.

RUSSIA: Amnesty International rescinded its decision to grant “prisoner of conscience” status to Alexei Navalny, arguing that the Russian opposition leader’s past statements about migrants constitute hate speech. Yet the group acknowledged that requests prompting its review of his statements “were part of a coordinated campaign abroad to discredit him”—a campaign likely originating with Moscow operatives. Navalny repeatedly has faced trumped-up charges designed to bar him from seeking office, and top Russian federal security officials have been implicated in his poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok last August.

In Moscow, the jailed Navalny lost his latest court appeals on Saturday but managed to have the last word (translation via Google):

“I don’t know what to talk about anymore, Your Honor. [I] want to talk to you about God and salvation. … The fact is that I am a believer, which, in general, rather serves as an example of constant ridicule ... and it helps me a lot in my work, because everything becomes much, much easier. I think less, there are fewer dilemmas in my life—because there is a book in which, in general, it is more or less clearly written what needs to be done in each situation.”

MYANMAR: Protests have spread across the country and grown in size even after police banned the gatherings. The demonstrators demand a return to civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

FRANCE: In the wake of last year’s beheading of a teacher, schools are grappling with how to teach free speech in a climate where religious “neutrality” is challenged.

IRAQ: The women are cleaning St. Mary Al-Tahira Church in Qaraqosh for the pope’s historic visit next month. Here’s what it looked like when I visited in 2017 after Islamic State (ISIS) took over the largely Christian town in Nineveh.

MARS: As if the Mars landing last week wasn’t enough, we’re now getting to hear sounds from our neighbor planet.

I’M READING An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine’s first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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