In poorest countries, surges worsen shortages of vaccines

Hati Maronjei once declared he would never get a COVID-19 shot, after a pastor warned that vaccines aren't safe.

In poorest countries, surges worsen shortages of vaccines

Hati Maronjei once declared he would never get a COVID-19 shot, after a pastor warned that vaccines aren't safe.

TheEditor
TheEditor
17 June 2021 Thursday 12:22
706 Reads
In poorest countries, surges worsen shortages of vaccines

Now, four months after the first batch of experiments arrived in Zimbabwe, the 44-year-old road hawker of digital items is desperate for the shot that he can't get. Whenever he visits a clinic in the capital, Harare, he's told to try again the next day.

"I'm getting frustrated and fearful," he explained. "I'm always in crowded areas, talking, selling to various men and women. I can't lock myself at the house."

A feeling of dread is growing in a number of the very poorest nations in the world as virus instances surge and more infectious variations take grip amid a crippling lack of vaccine.

The catastrophe has alerted public health officials together with the millions of unvaccinated, in particular those who participates in the informal, off-the-books economy, reside hand-to-mouth and pay cash in health crises. With intensive care units filling in towns overrun by the pandemic, severe disease could be a death sentence.

Africa is especially vulnerable. Its 1.3 billion people account for 18% of the world's inhabitants, but the continent has received just 2% of all vaccine doses administered globally. And some African countries have yet to dispense a single shot.

Health specialists and world leaders have warned that if wealthy nations immunize their people, the pandemic will not be defeated if the virus is allowed to disperse in states starved of vaccine.

"We're only as strong as the weakest link"

Zimbabwe, which has levied new lockdown measures because of a sharp rise in deaths and cases in the country of over 15 million individuals, has used only more than a million of 1.7 million doses, blaming shortages in metropolitan regions on logistical challenges.

Long lines form at centers such as Parirenyatwa Hospital, unlike months past, when authorities were begging people to get vaccinated. Many are alerted as winter sets in and the variant first found in South Africa spreads in Harare, where young men and women crowd into betting houses, some with masks dangling from their chins as well as others without.

"Many people are not wearing masks. There's no social distancing. The only response is that a vaccine, but I can't get it," Maronjei explained.

At the start of the pandemic, many profoundly impoverished countries with weak healthcare systems seemed to have averted the worst. That is changing.

"The trajectory of surging cases should rouse everybody to urgent action," explained Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director of the World Health Organization. "Public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate and care for patients, and to quickly isolate and trace their contacts."

Updated: 17.06.2021 12:46
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