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

(foto: Unicef Ethiopia/2021/Tewodros Tadesse via Flickr)

It’s a quick-fading snapshot, we’ve learned, that tries to capture the current situation of the pandemic, especially with the emergence and spread of new ones variants. But which at times manages to identify trends, at least at the level of large areas, or to highlight critical issues. Thus, observing the data on the progress of pandemic – and leaving the individual countries aside for a moment – the perception is that at the moment globally we are witnessing a reduction in almost and to a lesser extent also of 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 regions of the eastern Mediterranean, 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 does Southeast Asia. While in the western Pacific and in the Africa the trends are the opposite of those observed globally.

To set eyes above all onAfrica – more than one hundred epidemics grappling with humanitarian crises, and more Covid-19, as the measles – has been the same WHO for a few days. 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 it – fewer cases have been observed in the African continent than in the rest of the world. The reasons are different: from the lack to the observation of the security measures against the transmission, to the diffusion of the new ones 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”, he said Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for the WHO African region in the course of a conference on the subject, not hiding the fear that we could be facing the worst of the waves that have so far hit theAfrica.

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 to and from abroad. The problem of the availability of vaccines in Africa – but more generally in low-income countries – is real and known for some time, and also programs for the fair distribution of vaccines, such as Covax, have so far labored to keep up with the objectives (however modest) that they had set. By June, less than 1% of vaccines administered globally had gone to an African resident: nearly 70 doses per 100 inhabitants in high-income countries, compared to two doses per 100 inhabitants in Africa.

At a glance, thanks to the data put together by Ourworldindata, the delay in campaigns i is evident vaccinations on the continent. who instead the updated detail of the administration of vaccines on the continent.

Africa urgently needs millions of vaccines, It reaffirmed Moeti, renewing the appeal that the WHO director general had already 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 to the recent news that the first hub for the technology transfer of mRn vaccinesa, a public-private initiative that will hopefully help bridge this gap through the development and production of vaccines.

But the issue of equity is much broader, and doubly linked to the availability of vaccines in wealthy countries. Now in fact that in the richest countries – despite the constant attention to the new ones variants, as the delta – the number 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 will also suffer the injustice that its inhabitants have more restrictions because they cannot access vaccines, explained Moeti, underlining that the policies of openness to free movement on the subject 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.

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