Covid-19, without vaccines Africa risks being left (still) behind

Covid-19, without vaccines Africa risks being left (still) behind


The epidemic on the continent is advancing. And vaccines continue to be in short supply, and the openings linked to the success of vaccination campaigns risk creating new inequalities

(photo: Unicef ​​Ethiopia / 2021 / Tewodros Tadesse via Flickr). which seeks to capture the current situation of the pandemic, especially with the emergence and spread of new variants. But which at times manages to identify trends, at least at the level of large areas, or to highlight critical issues. Thus, looking at the data on the progress of the pandemic - and leaving individual countries aside for a moment - the perception is that at this moment globally we are witnessing a reduction in cases and to a lesser extent also in the victims after the spring wave. Overall though. In fact, if already from the global one passes to the macro-area level, things change: in Europe the reduction appears more marked, both as regards cases and deaths, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean regions, elsewhere it is not the same. The WHO region of the Americas, for example, as a whole, is still struggling to see a significant reduction in cases and victims, as is Southeast Asia. While in the Western Pacific and Africa the trends are the opposite of those observed globally.

To focus its eyes above all on Africa - more than one hundred epidemics grappling with a humanitarian crisis, not only Covid-19, such as measles - has been for some days the same WHO. In the periodic bulletins and updates released by the organization, the alarm regarding the increase in cases (and also in victims) observed in recent weeks is clear, although not comparable (yet) to that of early 2021 and although - it is the same WHO to remember - fewer cases have been observed in the African continent than in the rest of the world. The reasons are different: from the lack of observation of security measures against transmission, to the spread of new variants - including delta, currently present in at least 14 countries - upon the arrival of the cold season in the south of the continent. The result, provisional as more than elsewhere, is that the reported cases have exceeded 5 million, about 140 thousand victims. "The third wave is gaining speed, spreads faster, hits harder," said Matshidiso Moet i, WHO regional director for Africa at a conference on the topic, not hiding the fear that we might be facing the worse than the waves that have hit Africa so far.

But commenting on the epidemiological situation, Moeti also touched upon one of the central themes for months in the management of the epidemic: the availability of vaccines, and more generally the risk of inequalities deriving from an unequal distribution of available vaccines and the consequences of greater openness that is being observed in the more affluent countries, not only locally, but also and above all in the reopening from and to abroad. The problem of vaccine availability in Africa - but more generally in low-income countries - has been real and has been known for some time, and even programs for the fair distribution of vaccines, such as Covax, have so far struggled to keep up with the (however modest) targets. ) that they had set for themselves. By June, less than 1% of vaccines administered globally had gone to an African inhabitant: nearly 70 doses per 100 inhabitants in high-income countries, compared to two doses per 100 inhabitants in Africa.

A at a glance, thanks to the data put together by Ourworldindata, the delay in vaccination campaigns on the continent is evident. Here, on the other hand, is the updated detail of vaccine administration in the continent.

Africa urgently needs millions of vaccines, Moeti reiterated, renewing the appeal that the director general has already received. WHO had launched in recent weeks. "We need a shot, not a walk". However, remembering how the solution to the problem - increasing the supply of vaccines - does not only come from international solidarity, but also from innovation efforts. And the reference, with applause in this case, is the recent news that the first hub for the technology transfer of mRn a vaccines will be set up in South Africa, a public-private initiative that will hopefully help bridge this gap through development. and the production of vaccines.

But the issue of equity is much broader, and doubly linked to the availability of vaccines in wealthy countries. In fact, now that in richer countries - despite continued attention to new variants, such as the delta - the percentage of vaccinated people is increasing, we are beginning to observe greater openness, also understood as freedom of movement, travel. The reference cited to Moeti is, for example, the initiative of some countries to eliminate the quarantine for those in possession of a vaccination certificate. The fear is that Africa also suffers the injustice that its inhabitants have more restrictions because they cannot access vaccines, Moeti explained, stressing that the policies of openness to free movement in this area are also different in different parts of the world. The European Union, cites, in its vaccination pass system, recognizes as valid only vaccines applied in Europe, the CCDs to those approved by the FDA also include all the others approved by the WHO. @WHO, our position remains that making proof of vaccination a pre-requisite for travel may deepen inequities, particularly while the vaccines continue to be in such short supply. " - Dr @MoetiTshidi

- WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) June 24, 2021

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