The gap in immunization between countries is growing – and with it the fear of new strains forming

The gap in immunization between countries is growing – and with it the fear of new strains forming
The gap in immunization between countries is growing – and with it the fear of new strains forming

In the state of Burundi in Central Africa not a single vaccine against Corona has yet been injected. In Kinshasa, a huge city of 12 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, health workers have injected less than 40,000 corona vaccines. In Uganda, people stand in line for hours outside hospitals, then are sent home because of the meager stock of vaccines.

Nearly 10 months after the first corona vaccine became available to the public, the division between countries that have vaccines and those that do not is more prominent than ever. The U.S. and other affluent countries like Israel and the UK share a third dose, while in low-income countries – many of which are on the African continent – only 2.2% of people receive a single dose.

The reason is mainly a lack of inventory from the international vaccination program that has struggled to stockpile enough injections, and this has been exacerbated in some places due to inadequate infrastructure, hesitation and armed conflicts.

In countries where there are no vaccines, the epidemic continues to make a name for itself in human life and livelihoods, and in some places retreats the economy and social gains for an entire generation. Uninterrupted infection in these places may allow the virus to mutate into strains that are resistant to existing vaccines.

Varieties capable of bypassing existing vaccines “will really take all the effort of responding to the epidemic many steps back,” said Diapoka Saila-Ngita, a professor of infectious diseases at Kinshasa University School of Public Health.

From logistical difficulties to wars: The reasons for the large gap in vaccines vary from country to country

Some middle-income countries like Brazil or India, which were among those hit hardest by the plague early on, are beginning to reach a rate of immunization similar to that of the developed world.

In Brazil, more than two-thirds of citizens have received at least one vaccine and 38% are fully vaccinated. In India, which just three months ago set a record deaths per day from Corona, 44% of the country with a population of 1.3 billion received at least one injection, while 15% received two injections. Although there are still hundreds of millions of unvaccinated Indians, the government announced this week that it has enough vaccine stock by the end of the year and will return to exporting vaccines starting next month.

The reasons for the large gap in vaccines are different. In some countries, such as Afghanistan and South Sudan, where only 1.1% and 0.2% respectively are fully vaccinated, military conflicts interfere with the distribution of vaccines.

Other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Papua New Guinea, are battling widespread vaccination hesitation and logistical challenges, such as poor refrigeration equipment and dilapidated roads that make it difficult to inject vaccines into the arms of the population. Burundi said until two months ago that the country did not want to get vaccinated in Corona at all, after the government underestimated the effects of the plague for most of the previous year.

But in most developed countries, the main reason for the slow vaccine distribution remains a lack of inventory. Without the money needed to sign agreements with vaccine manufacturers or technological know-how to produce vaccines themselves, these countries relied on the World Health Organization’s Covax program to give them the vaccine doses.

As of this week, the program has provided 306 million packages. Earlier this month the plan cut its distribution forecasts for this year to 1.43 billion doses, compared to 2.27 billion it expected in January to have for distribution, noting that this decline is a result of declines in shipments from major vaccine manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and AstraZenka, as well as delays. In issuing regulatory approvals for vaccines of other companies ordered under the program. This is an amount that is barely enough to vaccinate 20% of the population of low- and low-middle-income countries this year.

Some large economies, including the European Union and the United Kingdom, have sent only a small fraction of the contributions they have made to developing countries. New promises, like the 500 million more rations that US President Joe Biden announced at a summit meeting with other world leaders this week, will not start coming until 2022.

World Health Organization Africa director Mashidisu Moati said on Thursday that monthly vaccine deliveries to Africa would have to more than sevenfold, from about 20 million doses to 150 million doses a month, if the continent wanted to vaccinate 70% of its population by next September. At their summit this week.

“Only those who have already received one dose are stored”

In Uganda, a country with a population of 42 million, teacher Sylvia Tomohimbisa recently visited every government hospital in the western city in search of a vaccine. She has not yet been vaccinated.

“The government wants us vaccinated before we are allowed to return to work, but all the hospitals send us to go,” she said. “They say they only store those who have already received one dose.”

The government, which claims it is trying to manage a small stockpile of vaccines, has already announced that schools in Uganda, which closed again in June when the Delta virus caused a record wave in infections, will remain closed until at least January.

The rise of the Delta strain has reset the calculations of health experts and government authorities across Africa and many other countries where the immunization rate is low. Countries that in the past seemed to be protected by their young populations from catching the plague severely have seen hospitals fill up and the death toll climb.

From Kenya to South Africa, residents are in closure every night. In Burundi, where many hospitals operate without electricity or running water, the government is closing the borders at times. This week, authorities imposed a $ 25 fine on anyone caught in public wearing a mask.

“People do not adhere to the guidelines of social distance, and the result has been an increase in attachments that we must stop,” Interior Minister Djerba Nadirkobuka said. A Covax spokeswoman said the Burundi government had not yet signed the documents needed to secure vaccinations under the program.

In recent weeks, several people have drowned as they tried to cross a river between Burundi and Congo in order to avoid paying for corona checks at the border crossing, which governments require them to carry out.

“It’s not fair that millions more people are going to die waiting for the vaccine just because of where they live,” said Carrie Teicher, program director at the Doctors Without Borders Medical Association.

 
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