Low vaccination rate in Africa could have major consequences, warn experts | Voice of America
NAIROBI, KENYA – By all accounts, the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Africa lags behind the rest of the world. Health experts warn that failure to vaccinate against 1.3 billion people on the continent will have a huge impact on its health systems and economies.
More than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, most African countries have only vaccinated a tiny fraction of their population.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has only fully immunized 0.1% of its citizens.
The African Center for Disease Control reports that three countries – Tanzania, Burundi, Eritrea – and the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Republic have yet to receive any vaccine, while Burkina Faso has received 115,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but no has not yet administered a single vaccine.
Abdhalah Ziraba, epidemiologist and head of the health system at the African Center for Population and Health Research in Nairobi, explains that vaccination failure is partly due to the reluctance of the population to vaccinate and to underdevelopment health systems, especially in non-urban areas. .
“In Africa, most people live in rural areas. The health care system which should be the system for delivering vaccines to the last person is not as sophisticated as the population is distributed. So people are far from where they can get access to vaccines and hence they are permanently excluded, but they remain at risk of being exposed to COVID-19, ”Zariba said.
Kenya has only fully vaccinated 13,000 people out of a population of 50 million, although about 1 million of them have received a dose of the vaccine.
Davji Atellah, the secretary general of the Kenya Union of Physicians, Pharmacists and Dentists, is calling on the government to allocate 1% of the country’s budget to purchasing COVID-19 vaccines.
“Countries like Uganda, or here in Kenya, we can still see that there are waves, there is an upsurge in infections. So the ultimate way to get back to normal is to vaccinate. That is why we are asking the government if our current budget is 3.6 trillion Kenyan shillings. If 1%, that’s about 35 billion shillings ($ 324.4 million) is invested in purchasing vaccines for Kenyans, then we can hope to see the opening. said Atellah.
The western region of Kenya has seen high rates of coronavirus infections in recent weeks, and officials have warned they may have to impose a new lockdown to curb transmissions.
In neighboring Uganda, the government recently reintroduced strict containment to fight an increase in infections. The lockdown includes the closure of schools and religious activities, and the imposition of travel bans within the country.
Ziraba said failure of African countries to vaccinate their populations would disrupt daily life and pose a problem for the rest of the world.
“It will be a cascade that will be very disruptive for the economies and the health system of African countries. But the rest of the world will not be in good shape because although a large part of their population will be protected, they will not be comfortable knowing that a new infection will arrive from time to time at their borders, ”Ziraba said. .
Overall, Africa has recorded around 5 million cases of COVID-19 and 133,000 deaths.