Not even for doctors and nurses like her, who treat COVID-19 patients in Chad, one of the least developed countries in the world where about a third of the country is engulfed by the Sahara Desert.
“I find it unfair and unfair, and it’s something that saddens me,” says the 33-year-old infectious disease physician. “I don’t even have that choice. The first vaccine that comes with an authorization, I’ll take it.
While richer countries have stockpiled vaccines for their citizens, many poorer countries are still scrambling to obtain doses. A few, like Chad, have not yet received one.
The World Health Organization says nearly a dozen countries – many in Africa – are still waiting to be vaccinated. The last aligned on the continent with Chad are Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eritrea and Tanzania.
“Delays and vaccine supply shortages are pushing African countries to slip further behind the rest of the world in the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine and the continent now accounts for only 1% of vaccines administered globally,” warned WHO Thursday.
And in places where there are no vaccines, there is also a chance that worrisome new variants could emerge, said Gian Gandhi, UNICEF’s COVAX coordinator for the Supply Division.
“So we should all be worried about any lack of coverage anywhere in the world,” Gandhi said, urging high-income countries to give doses to countries still waiting.
While the total of confirmed COVID-19 cases among them is relatively small compared to hot spots around the world, health officials say that figure is likely a considerable undercount: countries in Africa still awaiting vaccines are among the least equipped to track infections due to their fragile health care systems.
Chad has only confirmed 170 deaths since the start of the pandemic, but efforts to completely stop the virus here have been elusive. Although the capital’s international airport was briefly closed last year, its first case came from a person who illegally crossed one of Chad’s porous land borders.
Regular flights from Paris and elsewhere have resumed, increasing the chances of increasing the 4,835 cases already confirmed.
The Farcha Provincial Hospital in N’Djamena is a sparkling new campus in a peripheral neighborhood, where camels munch on acacia trees nearby. Doctors Without Borders has helped provide oxygen to patients with COVID-19 and the hospital has 13 ventilators. Doctors also have many KN95 masks and hand sanitizers made in China. Yet not a single employee has been vaccinated and none has been notified when possible.
It was easier to accept at the start of the pandemic, Djarma said, as doctors around the world were running out of vaccines. This changed drastically after the development of gunfire in the West and by China and Russia that went to other poor African countries.
“When I hear, for example, in some countries that they are done with the medical staff and the elderly and are now moving to other categories, honestly, it saddens me,” Djarma said. “I ask them if they can provide us with these vaccines to at least protect the health workers.
“Everyone dies from this disease, rich or poor,” she says. “Everyone should have the opportunity, the chance to be vaccinated, especially those who are most at risk.”
COVAX, the UN-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, aims to help low- and middle-income countries access them. However, a few countries, including Chad, have expressed concerns about receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine via COVAX for fear that it may not protect as well against a variant first seen in South Africa.
Chad is set to receive doses of Pfizer next month if it can set up the cold storage facilities necessary to keep this vaccine safe in a country where temperatures rise daily to 43.5 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit).
Some of the latter countries have also taken longer to meet dose reception requirements, including signing indemnity waivers with manufacturers and setting up distribution plans.
Those delays, however, now mean an even longer wait for places like Burkina Faso, as a key vaccine maker in India has reduced its global supply due to the catastrophic outbreak of the virus in that country.
“Now, with global vaccine shortages, resulting in particular from the surge in cases in India and subsequent sequestration by the Indian government of doses from manufacturers there, Burkina Faso risks even more delays in receiving doses he was supposed to get, ”said Donald Brooks. , CEO of a U.S. aid group engaged in the response to COVID-19 known as Initiative: Water.
Frontline health workers in Burkina Faso say they don’t know why the government hasn’t obtained vaccines.
“We would have liked to have him like other colleagues around the world,” says Chivanot Afavi, a nurse supervisor who worked on the front lines of the intervention until recently. “No one really knows what this disease will do to us in the future.”
In Haiti, not a single vaccine has been given to the more than 11 million people who live in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Haiti was due to receive 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via COVAX, but government officials said they lacked the infrastructure to store them and feared they would have to throw them away. Haitian officials also expressed concerns about potential side effects and said they preferred a single-dose vaccine.
Several small Pacific island countries have yet to receive a vaccine, although the lack of outbreaks in some of these places has reduced the urgency of vaccination campaigns. Vanuatu, with a population of 300,000, expects to receive its first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine later this month, but it has only recorded three cases of the coronavirus, all in quarantine.
At Farcha Hospital in Chad, nine health workers contracted the virus, including Dr Mahamat Yaya Kichine, a cardiologist. The hospital has now established groups of healthcare worker teams to minimize the risk of exposure for all staff.
“It took me almost 14 days to heal,” says Kishine. “There were a lot of caregivers who got infected, so I think if there is a possibility of making a vaccine available it will really make our job easier.”
Associated Press editors Sam Mednick in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand; and Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed.
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