COVID-19 outbreaks worsen vaccine shortages in poorest countries – .

COVID-19 outbreaks worsen vaccine shortages in poorest countries – .

A sense of terror is growing in some of the world’s poorest countries as COVID-19 cases rise and more contagious variants take hold amid a crippling vaccine shortage.
The crisis has alarmed public health officials, as well as the millions of unvaccinated people, especially those working in the informal and unofficial economy, live hand to mouth and pay cash in health emergencies.

With intensive care units filling up in cities overwhelmed by the pandemic, serious illness can be a death sentence.

Africa is particularly vulnerable. Its 1.3 billion people represent 18% of the world’s population, but the continent has received only 2% of all vaccine doses administered globally.

Some African countries have yet to distribute a single shot.

“We are only the weakest link stronger”

Health experts and world leaders have repeatedly warned that even if rich countries immunize all their people, the pandemic will not be defeated if the virus is allowed to spread to countries without vaccines.

“We have said throughout this pandemic that we are not safe unless we are all safe,” said John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist who heads the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are as strong as the weakest link. “

A man is turned away by a guard after trying to get a Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a health facility in Harare, Zimbabwe, on June 8. (Find contributors

Zimbabwe, which has imposed new containment measures amid a sharp rise in deaths and cases in the country of more than 15 million people, has used just over a million of 1.7 million doses , blaming shortages in urban areas on logistical problems.

Long queues are forming at centers such as Parirenyatwa Hospital, unlike a few months ago when authorities begged people to get vaccinated. Many are alarmed as winter sets in and the variant first identified in South Africa spreads to Harare.

A “sobering path”

At the start of the pandemic, many deeply impoverished countries with weak health systems seemed to have avoided the worst. It changes.

“The sobering trajectory of the increase in cases should inspire everyone to act urgently,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director of the World Health Organization.

“Public health measures must be intensified quickly to find, test, isolate and treat patients, and to quickly trace and isolate their contacts. “

New cases on the continent have increased by nearly 30% over the past week, she said.

In Zambia, where a vaccination campaign has stalled, authorities have reported that the country is running low on bottled oxygen. Patients whose symptoms are not severe are turned away by hospitals in the capital Lusaka.

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the Kololo airstrip in Kampala, Uganda, last month. (Nicholas Bamulanzeki/The Associated Press)

Uganda is also struggling with a sharp increase in cases and is experiencing a range of variants. Authorities report that the outbreak is infecting more people in their 20s and 30s.

Intensive care units in and around the capital, Kampala, are almost full. Misaki Wayengera, a doctor who heads a committee advising the Ugandan government, said some patients “were praying for someone to go” so they could get an intensive care bed.

Many Ugandans feel hopeless when they see the astronomical medical bills of patients leaving intensive care. Some have turned to boiled herbal concoctions for protection. On social media, suggestions include lemongrass and small flowering plants. This raised fears of poisoning.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni imposed new restrictions this month, including closing all schools. But he avoided last year’s extreme lockdowns, saying he didn’t want to harm people’s livelihoods in a country with a large informal sector.

A nurse prepares the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in western Uganda on April 27. (Patrick Onen/The Associated Press)

For beauticians, restaurateurs and vendors in crowded outdoor markets who struggle to put food on the table, the threat of COVID-19 can be high, but even take a day off when sick. is a test. The test costs $ 22 to $ 65, prohibitive for the working class.

“Unless I’m feeling very sick, I wouldn’t waste all my money going for a COVID test,” said Aisha Mbabazi, a 28-year-old waiter at a restaurant just outside Kampala.

Dr Ian Clarke, who founded a hospital in Uganda, said that while demand for vaccines increases among previously hesitant people, “the downside is that we don’t know when or where we’ll get the next batch” of. vaccines.

5 million cases in Africa to date

Africa has recorded more than 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 135,000 deaths. It’s a small fraction of the world’s workload, but many fear the crisis will get even worse.

A frontline worker reacts as she receives an injection of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Machakos, Kenya, earlier this year. Africa has experienced more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 to date. (Brian Inganga / The Associated Press)

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 90 percent of African countries are expected to miss the global target of immunizing 10 percent of their population by September.

A major problem is that COVAX, the UN-backed project to deliver vaccines to poor regions of the world, is itself facing a severe shortage of vaccines.

Amid a global outcry over the gap between the haves and have-nots, the United States, Britain and other wealthy Group of Seven countries agreed last week to share at least a billion doses with struggling countries over the next year.

In the meantime, many of the world’s poor are waiting and worrying.

Less than 2% of Afghans received the 1st dose

In Afghanistan, where a wave threatens to overwhelm a war-ravaged health system, 700,000 doses donated by China arrived over the weekend, and within hours “people were fighting to get to the front lines.” said the Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Ghulam Dastigir Nazari.

On Wednesday, a doctor fills a syringe with the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Rahmat Gul/The Associated Press)

The vaccine rush is notable in a country where many question the reality of the virus and rarely wear masks or social distancing.

By the end of May, around 600,000 Afghans had received at least one dose, less than 2% of the population of 36 million. The number of people who are fully vaccinated is tiny.

In Haiti, hospitals are turning away patients as the country awaits its first vaccine delivery.

A major delivery via COVAX has been delayed due to government concerns about side effects and the lack of infrastructure to keep doses properly refrigerated.

Customers wearing face masks chat with a vendor in a street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, earlier this month. (Joseph Odelyn/The Associated Press)


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