COVID-19 vaccine supplies are increasing in Africa. But delivering the treatments to people across the continent is proving difficult.
Health experts say successful vaccination campaigns in Africa are important to ending the pandemic globally. Low vaccination rates in Africa increase the risk of the virus changing, such as the new variant Omicron which is spreading in South Africa.
The World Health Organization says 102 million people, or 7.5 percent of Africa’s population, are fully immunized.
African governments have repeatedly called for an increase in vaccine supply this year. But production restrictions and the storage of additional vaccines by rich countries severely limited supplies until recently.
Lack of money, medical staff and equipment was already causing problems for vaccination campaigns in parts of Africa. Experts warn that the expected increase in vaccines in the coming weeks could further reveal these weaknesses.
About 40 percent of the vaccines that have arrived on the continent so far have not been used. This information comes from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a political nonprofit organization.
The rate of vaccine use will have to increase four times from the current level to keep up with the expected supply in the coming months, according to the institute.
Immunization rates vary widely across Africa. Some health systems in relatively small countries and in North Africa are more successful.
Cape Verde, off the coast of West Africa and with a population of around 600,000, has vaccinated nearly 65 percent of adults.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa, with a population of nearly 90 million, the number is 0.1 percent.
Kenya has received nearly 5 million doses in recent weeks after months of slow supplies.
Willis Akhwale is the leader of the government COVID-19 vaccine response team. He said Kenya had vaccinated a record 110,000 people on December 1 and aimed to maintain that rate next month. He said that would bring the total number vaccinated to 10 million out of a population of 47 million.
But the rural health center of Sekenani, about 270 kilometers southwest of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, faces many challenges.
The center started offering COVID-19 vaccines last month. Gerald Yiaile, one of the workers on site, said the center continued to run out of vaccine doses and only had one reliable agent fridge. The refrigerator is also used for other vaccines.
Workers need motorcycles to bring vaccines to the community. Many people are too poor to pay for a trip to a healthcare site, he said.
Yiaile called on local authorities to support mobile vaccination and had no response.
“We were forced to ask the community to come to us instead of our going to their homes,” he said.
Cameroon in central Africa had 244 vaccination centers when the country began its vaccination campaign in April. Today there are 1,000 centers, said the deputy head of Cameroon’s immunization program.
But health workers and officials say power outages and a lack of workers have threatened vaccine uptake.
Léonard Kouadio is head of the health section of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Cameroon. He said the country has a refrigerated truck capable of transporting vaccines. He added that Cameroon needs at least 2,500 temperature measuring devices, additional refrigerators and more trucks to increase Distribution.
Mali, one of the largest and poorest countries in Africa, has two refrigerated trucks to transport vaccines over long distances. The conflict in the north of the country has led some health workers to flee their posts, said Abdoul Gadiry Fadiga, director of the UNICEF health program in Mali.
Mali expects to receive around 3.5 million doses by the end of March 2022. This is more than twice the number it has received since the start of vaccinations, Fadiga said.
Mali has sufficient storage resources to cope with the number of vaccination doses until March. But Fadiga added that the country still needs 288 more refrigerators and freezers going forward.
The World Bank has approved $ 9.8 billion for emergency health assistance to developing countries around the world. But so far only $ 4.4 billion has been distributed.
In addition, some vaccine treatments given were sent very close to their expiry Dated. Countries in urgent need of vaccines, including South Sudan and Congo, have had to return donations as a result. Namibia warned last month it may have to destroy thousands of outdated vaccine treatments.
South Africa has asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to delay vaccine delivery because it has too many.
One of the main difficulties with vaccine distribution is community mistrust, sometimes caused by religious beliefs and mistrust of Western pharmaceutical companies and their governments. Lack of education on COVID-19 vaccines helps rumors spread.
This may be the result of shortages of local workers and financial shortages, health workers from across Africa told Reuters.
Ethiopia is concerned that vaccines will expire before they are used due to low demand. The country is trying to overcome hesitation over vaccines by reaching out to communities through local faith groups and civil society, Muluken Yohannes said. He is a senior adviser at the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.
“Currently, developed countries… have met their vaccine needs. As a result, they are pushing the remaining vaccines… to developing countries, ”he said. But he added that the best time to deliver these vaccines had already passed.
I am Jonathan Evans. And I am Ashley Thompson.
Maggie Fick and Edward Mcallister reported this story to the Reuters news service. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learn English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in this story
fridge – nm an appliance or room that is used to keep things such as food and drinks cool
mobile – adj. able to move or be moved easily
Distribution – nm the act of giving or delivering something to people
expiration – nm the fact of terminating or of no longer being valid after a certain time; the fact of exhaling
rumors – nm information or stories passed from person to person but have not been proven to be true