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Aftershocks: New research debunks one of the pandemic’s biggest misconceptions

View our data tracker and sign up for our weekly newsletter. This week: the debunking of vaccine hesitancy, the long-term impacts of COVID, presidential election outcomes, and more.

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Debunker mentality: New research has debunked the well-trodden claim that vaccine hesitancy is the primary driver of low COVID-19 vaccine rates in low-income countries. The analysis of 14 countries instead found that “unpredictable vaccine supplies, lack of antiviral treatments and poor funding for health systems” were the main causes of low vaccine rates. In the countries analysed, 90% of vaccines received by December 2021 were administered, despite the challenges. Increased vaccine production in the Global South would speed up vaccine production. Ironically, early in the pandemic Western pharmaceutical companies actually benefited from using the TRIPs provisions that they’ve since adamantly opposed. Those provisions would enable lower-income countries to access patents and manufacture their own versions of vaccines.

“Epidemiological aftershock”: COVID-19 has significantly increased the rates of potentially lifelong illnesses like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, according to mounting evidence and new research. Heart attack deaths increased by 15% between 2019 and 2021 for people aged 40-64, with early analysis showing an increased risk of cardiovascular issues for at least a year after infection. Meanwhile, the number of healthcare workers is decreasing as a result of COVID-19 infection and burnout. Experts say a rethink of healthcare delivery is needed to manage the growing burden on health systems.

Food prices ⬇️, costs ⬆️: After hitting record highs in recent months, the price of wheat, corn, and some oils have dropped to levels not seen since before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the food crisis is not over yet: according to analysts, the recently brokered deal to move grain out of Russian-blocked zones in Ukraine is not the main reason for the price drops. Russia has increased its exports of grains, and energy prices have dropped. But even as food prices fall, the value of many lower-income countries’ currencies continue to decline, increasing the cost of basic items.

Tipping point: Egypt looks likely to default on its sovereign debt within the year as it becomes the latest in a string of lower-income countries suffering from the combined impact of increasing inflation, higher interest rates, and a global growth slowdown. Egypt’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 94%, with an outstanding foreign-currency debt of $83.3 billion. Some analysts say only a devaluation of Egypt’s currency, paired with a sufficient IMF debt-servicing package, could ensure the country avoids default. Or maybe the G20 could finally fix the Common Framework to incentivise participation.

A seat at the table: Japan says it will push for Africa to secure a permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council to correct a “historical injustice.” The announcement comes after Japan was elected for a temporary seat on the UNSC for 2023-2025. Currently, the five permanent members — France, China, Russia, UK, and US — reflect the power dynamics in place when the UNSC was established. It’s not the first time Japan has proposed reforms. In 2005, it requested its own permanent seat on the Security Council along with Brazil, Germany, and India. Let’s hope this time it’s more successful! 🙏

Challenging results: Angola’s President Joao Lourenco won re-election last week with 51% of the vote, his party’s worst showing in 20 years. Lourenco’s party, in power since Angolan independence from Portugal in 1975, has been slowly losing support over the past two decades, likely due to high levels of corruption, poverty, and unemployment. The leader of the main opposition party, Adalberto Costa Junior, who won 44% of the vote, has rejected the results. Meanwhile in Kenya, presidential runner up and opposition leader, Raila Odinga, is mounting a Supreme Court challenge of the recent election results, arguing that there were irregularities. William Ruto won by a razor thin margin of 0.5%. The Supreme Court is set to deliver its verdict on 5 September.

On the edge: Violent clashes between militias of rival political leaders in Libya have killed at least 32 people and injured an estimated 150. The fighting started after a militia of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh’s political rival, Fathi Bashagha, was attacked on the streets of Tripoli. Bashagha’s party has challenged the prime minister’s legitimacy and installed an interim government under Bashagha’s control in February this year. The political tensions and violence since the start of the year have disrupted Libya’s oil and gas production. Output levels have risen in recent weeks, but experts say elections are necessary if production is to stabilise.

The numbers

More reads

  • Registrations are open for the Seminar “Unlocking the potential of the MDBs” taking place next Wednesday 7 September at 12pm GMT, organised by ONE, E3G, and Sharing Strategies.
  • ONE’s Policy team analyses what it would take to develop Africa’s medicine industry with local manufacturing.
  • Listen to Dimie Ogoina share his lessons on pandemic preparedness, after his attempt to sound the alarm on monkeypox cases in Nigeria back in 2017 fell on deaf ears. (The African Roundtable)
  • Progressives need to adjust to an age of great-power rivalry with a strategic, agile approach that avoids the trap of single-mindedness, argues Stephen Wertheim. (Foreign Affairs)
  • China may be left with no choice but to change its development strategy as it faces an overseas debt crisis. (The Economist)

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