While booster vaccines are already being discussed in Europe, only a small percentage of the population in Africa has been immunized so far. The main problem: the lack of a vaccine. There doesn’t seem to be a way out.
Of all the continents, Africa is the slowest to vaccinate against the coronavirus. As of this week, just over five percent of the population has been vaccinated. Why is this and what can you do about it? Leading minds from the continent offer answers.
Insufficient and stable supply of vaccine
Richard Mihigo, WHO doctor in Brazzaville: In order to get African countries to the level of vaccination in the richer countries, we need an adequate and continuous supply of vaccines. And support those countries that face difficulties in using vaccinations. This week, WHO officials visited South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and The Gambia. While vaccine deliveries have been increasing since the middle of the year, we still need 400 million more doses than previously delivered or promised. This is necessary to achieve the WHO’s goal of fully vaccinating 40 percent by the end of the year. Currently, only 43 percent of the cans given for 2021 have been delivered, but I’m confident the rest will arrive on time. The World Health Organization is encouraging countries to turn their promises into timely deliveries so that we can get vaccines into the arms of those who need them most.
South African bishops: low vaccination rate
Sithembele Sipuka, President of the South African Bishops’ Conference: A few months ago there was a concern that the West and America might stockpile vaccines – a concern that has subsided recently. Instead, we read reports that the two continents provide vaccines to African countries. But Africa remains the continent with the lowest vaccination rate. It is a moral problem that rich countries are already vaccinating children, South Africa is now on the move, while the rest of Africa’s most vulnerable age groups are still not immunized. Also of concern is the fact that Africa depends on donations. The problem lies in poverty and its causes, whether it is unfair trade conditions, civil wars or corrupt leaders. As long as these problems are not resolved, or at least begin to be resolved, Africa will always rank lower.
Reduce pollination bureaucracy
Marie-Noel Nokolo, development researcher in Johannesburg: We have to reduce bureaucracy and opacity around vaccine production and increase supply. With only a few Covid vaccine production facilities, the supply is very limited. African countries need an actionable roadmap that uses the current health system. Communication with citizens is also important to dispel legitimate fears and conspiracy theories. The success of transnational efforts such as the Covax Vaccination Initiative or the African Working Group on Vaccine Acquisition has shown that progress can be made together. But there is still much to be done.
Boosting local vaccination production
Hassan Khanigi, Professor of Political Science in Nairobi: For a large-scale vaccination campaign, Africa must boost its domestic production. This is particularly evident in the context of the limited supply and nationalism of the vaccine in the developed world. While African heads of state are wary of international imbalances of power, they can use diplomacy through the African Union and the United Nations to challenge the vaccine’s apparent racial discrimination and through the institutions that help contain the spread of Covid-19. After all, Africa is part of the global economy.
Vaccination patents released
Wolfgang Preiser, Cape Town virologist: I can’t decide what to think of an appeal to repeal patent protection. On the other hand, it is disgraceful how vaccine manufacturers, despite generous subsidies, strive to make huge profits and keep contracts confidential. On the other hand, it is not enough to disclose the manufacturing process; You have to be able to do that. A vaccination campaign requires more than just a vaccine. The fact that poor countries need support here should be obvious, as well as the fact that the situation will only be brought under control once the world’s population has been largely vaccinated. I am happy with the effort to create an mRNA vaccine here in South Africa. This will likely come too late for the Covid-19 pandemic, but it may lay the groundwork for the permanent production of different vaccines in Africa.
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