With India battling the coronavirus amid fears of a long-term shortage of vaccines made in India, Africa is seeing instability and the need to help protect its people.
Often referred to as the “pharmacy of the world”, India is one of the leading suppliers of the AstraZeneca vaccine under the Kovacs program to help vaccinate poor countries.
But India has been hit by an explosive increase in infections – significant, scientists say.
The country has a population of 1.3 billion, with 22 million cases recorded, and about one million deaths.
After sending more than 1 billion doses abroad, India announced at the end of March that it was delaying supplies to other countries because it was working to meet its own needs.
African Union (AU) health ministers held urgent talks on Saturday to discuss the vaccine gap.
“The situation with vaccines in India is now very complicated,” said John Nekengasong, a Cameroonian virologist and director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We hope that the vaccines will continue to be supplied from India through COXX, but we are looking at the horror and mistrust of what is going on in India and we do not expect the vaccines to be sent out to India any time soon. ”
Of all the continents, Africa has survived the worst pandemic so far, with just over 124,000 deaths officially recorded in 4.6 million cases.
On the other hand, there are crowded cities in Africa, where slums are breeding grounds for viruses and a fragile health infrastructure – risk factors are also prominent features in the Indian experience.
The continent has managed 19.6 million doses or just 2 percent of the total worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80 percent of doses are administered in rich countries.
African countries still had to move to the open market or the Covax project due to the lack of ways to produce their own vaccines in large quantities.
AU’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) is hopeful of obtaining vaccines through its own program in late July or early August, and Nekengasong said he hoped the date could be brought forward, but he could not guarantee it.
Nekengasong said he did not expect the vaccine market to re-emerge until the third quarter and called on African leaders to adjust the strategy according to their strategy.
The variant of the virus in India has already been detected in several African countries, particularly Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
Nekengasang has pushed for a three-pronged strategy: Test step up; Improving resistance through awareness programs; And strengthening the supply of vaccines and oxygen.
The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysas, called for greater vigilance in African countries until the vaccine crisis is resolved.
“If our world watchdog is brought down, what could happen in many other parts of the world could happen to us in Africa,” he said. Said at the meeting.
“In many countries, the rapid emergence of alternatives to rapid public health and social care and the unequal distribution of vaccines is having tragic consequences.”
The EU cabinet meeting called for strict respect for social distance guidelines on a continent where there is some resistance to vaccines.
The Democratic Republic of Congo announced at the end of April that it had 1.3 million “surplus” AstraZeneca vaccines “rehabilitated” in five neighboring countries.
The health ministry acknowledged that some sections of the population had denied the allegations.
In some rich countries, the problem of low supply of vaccines is starting to switch to one of the surpluses.
“The inadequate distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage. It’s also self-defeating economically and epidemiologically, “Tedders said.