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African nations ‘far from ready’ for COVID-19 vaccination drive

As the world awaits the global launch of the covid-19 vaccines, many humanitarian issues are rising. It is no surprise that the pandemic hit the poorer countries harder than the rich ones. Between poverty, corruption, and a strained health system, such a turn of events was bound to happen. Thus, now, as countries from around the globe fight for the vaccine, African nations will yet again fall behind. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) announced, on Thursday, that the African continent is “far from ready” to roll out what will be its largest-ever immunization drive. Therefore, the battle against the virus is still in its very early stages.

The significance of planning

The newest WHO analysis declared the vaccination program readiness in Africa as lagging. Furthermore, Matshidiso Moeti, a WHO Regional Director for Africa, urged the importance of both formulating a plan and making preparations as a means of successful inoculations against the current pandemic. 

“The largest immunization drive in Africa’s history is right around the corner, and African governments must urgently ramp up readiness. Planning and preparation will make or break this unprecedented endeavor,” she said. 

“We need active leadership and engagement from the highest levels of government with solid, comprehensive national coordination plans and systems put in place,” added Dr. Moeti. Moreover, Harvesting the fruit of today’s efforts will definitely turn the world into a safer place tomorrow.

Overall readiness for a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

According to the analysis based on countries’ self-reporting, the average score of the African regions on the scale of readiness for a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is 33 percent. Thus, the score is a lot lower than the UN desired benchmark of 80 percent.  

Despite the world health organization, the Vaccine Alliance,  Gavi, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, and other partners’ efforts, many African countries aren’t ready to receive the vaccines. The mentioned nonprofit organizations are trying their best to ensure equitable access to vaccines in Africa through the COVAX facility. Thus, after the licensing and approval of the vaccines, COVAX will then aim to secure enough doses for an initial 20 percent of the African population. 

Therefore, the rest of the countries should start coordinating a plan of action. As of now, according to WHO analysis, only 49 percent of the African countries have identified priority populations for vaccination and have plans in place to reach them with only  44 percent having coordination structures in place. On the other hand, 24 percent have tolerable plans for resources and funding, while just 17 percent have data collection and monitoring tools ready. Lastly, only 12 percent of all the population have plans to communicate with communities as a means to drive demand for immunization. 

A history of medical colonialism

Another reason for the countries’ lack of readiness is the lack of trust in the western medical field. The long history of medical colonialism has left its bloody mark on the content. Thus, many, with good reason, grew suspicious of it. It is also the reason many didn’t agree to join the initial trials. Therefore, rebuilding this trust is vital in helping African countries in the battle against covid-19.

The first step of a very long journey

Though extremely essential, developing a vaccine is just the first step towards closing this lethal chapter. The true test will be in sharing it with the whole world. “If communities are not on-board and convinced that a vaccine will protect their health, we will make little headway. It’s critical that countries reach out to communities and hear their concerns and give them a voice in the process,” said Dr. Moeti. 

References:

African nations ‘far from ready’ for COVID-19 vaccination drive, says. (2020, December 1). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1078642Gonzalez, L. L. (2020, November 17). Coronavirus vaccine: How will poorer countries get a fair shot? South Africa News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2020/11/17/coronavirus-vaccine-how-will-poorer-countries-get-a-fairNature Editorial. (n.d.). African nations missing from coronavirus trials. Nature. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01010-7?error=cookies_not_supported&code=8b0c8568-b96c-4e53-9742-de0bf2202534

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