Why have these countries not received COVID-19 vaccines?

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South africa vaccine covid
A teacher receives the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker at Roshnee Civic Centre, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, June 23, 2021, during rollout of teacher vaccinations programme.
Image Credit: AP

Dubai: More than 3.19 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines have so far been administered worldwide. China leads the global count with more than 1.29 billion jabs, followed by India with 351.22 million.

The UAE has overtaken Seychelles to become the world’s most vaccinated nation against COVID-19, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

The UAE has so far administered 15.5 million doses, enough to cover 72.1 per cent of its population based on a two-dose regimen.

As countries around the world are taking steps to return to normalcy after vaccinating the people, some nations are still waiting for their first jabs. Most African countries have vaccinated only a tiny fraction of their populations.

The World Health Organisation has also said that a large number of poorer countries relying on the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX do not have enough doses to continue vaccinating.

Why have some countries not received COVID-19 vaccines?

Tanzania

Early this year, WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus called the lack of COVID-19 response in Tanzania ‘very concerning’ and urged the country to implement public health measures to prepare for vaccination.

President John Magufuli had denied the presence of the coronavirus in the country, but later acknowledged that the virus was circulating and encouraged people to wear masks. He warned against the use of vaccines, suggesting Tanzanians would be used as “guinea pigs.”

Tanzania covid vaccine
Party members have their temperature checked and sanitise their hands as a precaution against the coronavirus at the national congress of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party in Dodoma, Tanzania.
Image Credit: AFP

Months of anti-vaccine rhetoric from politicians led to conspiracy theories and vaccine hesitancy on the part of the people.

Four months after countries around the world began receiving vaccine shipments through COVAX, Tanzania finally joined the global initiative in June. It is still waiting to vaccinate its people.

Haiti

For more than a year, Haiti escaped the worst of the pandemic, reporting few cases and fatalities. But now as some countries are moving into a post-pandemic phase, the country is grappling with its first serious outbreak.

Doctors largely credited the country’s resilience to its relatively young population. Many locals dismissed the virus or even doubted its existence. . President Jovenel Moise urged Haitians to drink medicinal tea to ward off the virus.

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Haiti has been promised it will receive its first vaccine ‘very soon.’

Haiti doctors covid
A team from the Doctors Without Borders Drouillard Hospital in Cite Soleil, Haiti, work in the COVID-19 patient care area on June 3, 2020.
Image Credit: AFP

Eritrea

Eritrea was affected by COVID-19 induced restrictions and lockdowns in 2020. It has yet to receive any vaccines.

Burundi

In February, Burundi said it does not need COVID-19 vaccines, as doses began to arrive in Africa.

The health minister Thaddee Ndikumana said prevention was more important and “since more than 95% of patients are recovering, we estimate that the vaccines are not yet necessary.”

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye declared in July that COVID-19 was the country’s “biggest enemy.” Former President Pierre Nkurunziza, who died in June amid speculation he’d contracted the virus, had scorned the disease and expelled WHO officials, saying his country was protected by God, Bloomberg reported.

Yet almost a year on, Ndayishimiye has not secured vaccines, saying the battle had already been won. Burundi’s government says vaccines aren’t fully effective and long-term side effects are not understood though it’s allowed soldiers serving in peacekeeping missions overseas to receive them.

Zimbabwe vaccine covid
A health worker vaccinates a man against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 18, 2021.
Image Credit: Reuters

Why is Africa behind other continents in the vaccination drive?

Africa is in the grip of a crippling third wave of coronavirus infections with

coronavirus cases in the continent doubling every three weeks. Africa remains under-vaccinated, with only 1.1% of its 1.2 billion people having gotten a jab compared with about 50% of the populations of the US and the UK that are fully inoculated.

Only 50 million of the more than 3 billion doses of vaccines that have been administered globally have been in Africa, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Graphic covid
Image Credit: Gulf News

Cities from Johannesburg to Kampala have been forced to lock down and intensive care units are overflowing. In the continent’s poorer countries, patients are dying because of a lack of oxygen and health-care workers are overwhelmed, with nurses looking after as many as 40 patients each, Bloomberg reported.

Insufficient vaccine supply across the continent has been attributed as the main reason for the low inoculation rate. But there are several other factors that have contributed to the slow vaccine rollout in Africa.

Project HOPE found that even when some countries received vaccine doses, they were not always able to vaccinate en masse.

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Lack of funds, lack of trained professionals and hesitancy among the population to get the vaccine contributed to the low rate of inoculation.

Kenya covid vaccine
Kenyan tour guide, Daniel Ole Kissipan, receives the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) under the COVAX scheme, in Nairobi, Kenya, April 27, 2021.
Image Credit: Reuters

Also, because of a severe lack of vaccine doses, many countries were using different vaccines, which created challenges such as keeping track of who gets what type of vaccine, differing logistics and storage requirements and training vaccinators to give different vaccines.

Cases are doubling every three weeks, and the continent is on the verge of exceeding its worst week of the pandemic. On Friday, the number of South African daily coronavirus infections surged to a record.

Only seven African nations, most of them small, are expected to meet the World Health Organisation’s goal that every country worldwide vaccinate 10 percent of its people against the coronavirus by September, NYT reported. The seven countries likely to meet the goal are Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, Morocco, Sao Tome and Principe, the Seychelles and Zimbabwe

To achieve the 10 percent target for every country on the continent, Africa would need an extra 225 million doses, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the W.H.O. regional director for Africa. In total, nine out of 10 African nations will miss out on this global vaccination goal, the agency estimated.

What has the reaction been?

Africa is not winning its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as a third virus wave sweeps the continent and countries struggle to access enough vaccines for their populations, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said recently.

The COVAX programme co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for fair distribution of vaccines is planning a shake-up as it has been shunned by rich countries and failed to meet the needs of the poorest, a Reuters report states.

Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director Nkengasong said he was more worried about getting vaccines in time, regardless of where the doses came from.

“The third wave has come with severity that most countries were not prepared for. So the third wave is extremely brutal,” Nkengasong said during a weekly online briefing.

Rapid access to vaccines sought

”Let me put it bluntly, we are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus so it does not really matter to me whether the vaccines are from COVAX or anywhere. All we need is rapid access to vaccines,” he said.

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John Nkengasong Africa CDC
John Nkengasong, Africa’s Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), speaks during an interview with Reuters at the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2020.
Image Credit: Reuters

Nkengasong said at least 20 countries were in the middle of the third wave, with Zambia, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo among those whose health facilities were being overwhelmed.

Africa’s third wave is spreading faster and hitting the continent harder, the WHO’s Africa head Matshidiso Moeti said at a later briefing on Thursday. “The latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” she said.

What is COVAX?

COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in response to the pandemic. It brings together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

COVAX is an effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world get access to COVID-19 vaccines regardless of their wealth.

Coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation, COVAX acts as a platform that will support the research, development and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, and negotiate their pricing.

What is the vaccine situation around the world?

About 18 months year after the first COVID-19 case was reported, more than 3 billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in at least 212 countries and territories. That’s a massive feat by itself. But there’s an ever bigger challenge: vaccinating the rest of the world, specifically the global south.

In certain places, especially in vaccine-have-nots, people are now facing some grip facts: Only 1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data, which tracks daily vaccinations around the world from their London headquarters.

There’s also concern about vaccine equity, specifically the way certain vaccines are favoured over others in the implementation of the so-called “travel certificates”. For example, on June 30, the African Union and the Africa CDC have voiced concern over EU’s travel certificate — which only recognises AstraZeneca doses manufactured in Europe but not the India-manufactured shots which many African nations have received through the COVAX initiative.



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