Not shipping more vaccines to Africa is "big mistake"

There are now fewer new cases of covid daily in Africa than in Europe, but experts fear the trend could change if vaccination programs are not accelerated. They criticize countries that stockpile doses. Although Africa is registering fewer new cases of covid-19 than Europe at the moment, experts fear that new waves of the pandemic will hit the continent, as only about 7% of the 1.3 billion residents from African countries are fully vaccinated. Most of the continent’s nations depend on vaccine doses from abroad, even if there are initiatives to build local production centers. But as the number of cases continues to rise in Europe, the shipment of vaccines to Africa will likely be reduced. Germany, for example, has already taken the decision to withhold doses of vaccines that were destined for the poorest countries. “We even deferred some of our donations to Covax, international donations from [vacina da Pfizer-]BioNTech, from December to January and February, so that there are enough doses in Germany,” said the German Health Minister, Jens Spahn, this week. His statement was given just days after the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, criticized some countries for stockpiling vaccines. “Every day, there are six times more booster doses being administered globally than first doses in low-income countries,” he said. “The non-profit organization ONE Campaign has called on the German government to review its decision and continue to donate doses to Covax as promised. “If we don’t act quickly to ensure that people around the world have access to vaccines, we will prolong the pandemic.” ONE Germany director Stephan Exo-Kreischer told DW, before describing Spahn’s decision as “a huge mistake and a devastating sign for the world.” He also said Germany had bought more The doses of what I needed. “There are more people in rich countries who have now received a third dose than people in poorer countries who have received the first dose,” he said. “This is the result of bad policy.” Germany’s Ministry of Health told DW that the country is providing a total of 100 million free doses to be distributed mainly via Covax. Under-reporting of cases and deaths Despite low vaccination rates, there is currently a downward trend in the number of new covid-19 cases per day in Africa. Africa’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have registered a total of 8.5 million cases to date, of which more than 222,000 have resulted in death. But Exo-Kreischer believes those numbers are probably wrong: “We have to assume that less than 15% of cases on the continent are actually detected. Even though the numbers look low on paper, WHO estimates they are seven times higher. ” He considers the lack of quality data a problem, pointing out that South Africa had low rates, while infections in Tanzania were not recorded systematically. “The good record of infection rates is actually related to the fact that there is very little testing and reporting of cases,” said Wolfgang Preiser of South Africa’s Stellenbosch University. But he said it was possible to make estimates from the data. excess mortality. “In South Africa, three times as many people died from covid-19 than was officially reported.” He cited that other diseases were also being neglected because of the pandemic. Only 23% of South Africa’s 59 million people are vaccinated. There are enough doses in South Africa, unlike most African countries where there is shortage, but “the biggest challenge is actually vaccinating people. There are more doses than can be used, like in developed countries.” stated. There are also anti-vaccine groups in South Africa, he says, who tend to be white, wealthy and educated, but skeptical of the government. Zimbabwe and Botswana perform reasonably In neighboring Zimbabwe, the local government said the pandemic is under control and that few new cases and deaths have been reported recently. Botswana is also doing reasonably well. At the height of the pandemic, the country purchased large quantities of vaccines and launched a comprehensive immunization program. According to the country’s covid-19 task force, about 56% of the population has received a first dose and 29% has received a second. The most recent figures show 31 new cases per day for every 100,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, there are few people against the vaccine, which experts attribute to a general confidence in the government and the health system. Mauritania, which was called a “champion” by the WHO, is also making a great effort to vaccinate the population. “We knew that we would not be able to deal with the social and economic consequences of harsh confinement,” Health Minister Sidi Ould Zahaf told the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung recently. But at the moment, only 13% of the population has received two doses, so there is still a long way to go. In the rest of the continent, the situation is much worse. In 30 countries in Africa, less than 10% of the population is vaccinated. Author: Martina Schwikowski

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