Canada Will Allow Blood Donations From Gay Men

Restrictions on gay men donating blood are set to be lifted in Canada after the government spent C$5 million researching the change’s impact on the safety of the blood donation system. Separately, Denmark made the bold decision to halt its covid vaccine program after controlling the virus.

Canada To Lift Restrictions On Gay Men Donating Blood

Health Canada on Thursday lifted restrictions on gay men donating blood, a move Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said was “good news for all Canadians” but had taken too long. Trudeau said at a news conference the ban should have ended 10 to 15 years ago, but research proving it would not affect the safety of the blood supply had not been done by previous governments. Trudeau said his government spent C$5 million dollars (US$3.9 million) on research into the safety aspects of changing the blood donation rules and multiple scientific reports showed “our blood supply will continue to be safe.” (4/28)

Denmark makes a dramatic move on covid vaccines —

Denmark The First Country To Halt Its Covid Vaccination Program

Denmark has become the first country to halt its Covid vaccination program, saying it is doing so because the virus is now under control. “Spring has arrived, vaccine coverage in the Danish population is high, and the epidemic has reversed,” the Danish Health Authority said in a statement Wednesday.“ Therefore, the National Board of Health is now ending the broad vaccination efforts against Covid-19 for this season,” it said. People will not be invited for vaccines from May 15, it said, although everyone will be able to finish their course of vaccination. (Ellyatt, 4/28)

In news from Africa —

South Africa’s Latest COVID Surge Blamed On Omicron Mutant

South Africa is seeing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases driven by yet another version of the coronavirus, health experts say. Cases had been dropping in the country since February. But a new omicron subvariant that scientists call BA.4 began pushing up cases last week and they have risen rapidly since, said Salim Abdool Karim, who previously advised the government on its COVID-19 response. So far, there has been only a slight rise in hospitalizations and no increase in deaths, said Abdool Karim, who is a public health expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. (Meldrum and Ungar, 4/28)

South Africa Covid Cases: New Omicron Sublineages Dominate Infections

New omicron sublineages, discovered by South African scientists this month, are likely able to evade vaccines and natural immunity from prior infections, the head of gene sequencing units that produced a study on the strains said. The BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages appear to be more infectious than the earlier BA.2 lineage, which itself was more infectious than the original omicron variant, said Tulio de Oliveira, the head of the institutes at the universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch. (Sguazzin, 4/28)

South Africa May Be Entering Fifth COVID Wave

South Africa may be entering a fifth COVID-19 infection wave earlier than expected, after a sustained rise in infections over the past 14 days, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday. “What remains stable … is hospital admissions including ICUs (intensive care units), not a very dramatic change,” Phaahla told a news conference. “There was also a rise in deaths, not very dramatic from a low base.” (Winning and Roelf, 4/29)

Africa Sees Rise In Measles As Pandemic Disrupts Vaccines

Africa is seeing a surge of outbreaks of preventable diseases as a result of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. The continent recorded a 400% increase in measles, to more than 17,000 cases between January and March, compared to the same period last year, Dr. Benido Impouma, a WHO expert in Africa, told a press briefing. Two years of disruptions by the coronavirus pandemic have had “major effects on the provision of routine health services, with immunization being seriously affected” in many countries, he said. (Muhumuza, 4/28)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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