COVID-19 vaccine: Global coverage remains low

TORONTO – Vaccine inequality is an ever more pressing concern, but even though rich nations are exhibiting doses of funding, rolling those doses out to poorer regions across the globe The demand is very slow, not a flood that needs extensive protection.

Canada-funded doses of COVAX vaccines have already begun arriving in their intended destinations, while the spread of Omicron highlights one of the dangers of not guaranteeing global vaccine coverage.

At Tabitha Medical Clinic in Kibera, Kenya, healthcare workers finally received the first box of the Canadian-funded AstraZenca vaccine, now known as Vaxzevria.

Eddah Ogogo, regional health program coordinator, said they were “delighted” to receive the dose of the vaccine.

“This is very important in fighting the pandemic,” she said.

This clinic is located in the middle of a poor and crowded community outside Nairobi with an estimated population of over 250,000.

The clinic was founded by a local nurse Tabitha Atieno Festo, and is now funded

of an international charity, CFK Africa, as well as a partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It relies on shipments like this from Canada.

Kenya is one of three countries in Africa to begin receiving the first shipment of AstraZeneca funded by Canada this fall through COVAX, the World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine funding program that is seeking to provide provide vaccines to lower-income countries where access to vaccines is still very large. problem. Nigeria and Niger also started receiving doses in September.

While Canada has announced that it will donate, either through financial assistance or direct dosing, the equivalent of at least 200 million doses to COVAX by the end of 2022, the country has so far shipped around 9.1 million doses according to the government’s website – a tiny fraction of what Canada has been shopping for itself.

In Kenya, less than 11% of people have injected even one dose so far.

The country has reported about 255,000 COVID-19 infections and 5,300 virus-related deaths, according to a Reuters tracker.

Amos Achola, who lives in Kibera, said he has so far lost five family members and even more neighbors to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has really negatively affected my family because I used to work,” he said. “When COVID-19 hit, I stayed here and so far I’m unemployed.”

After a moment of hesitation, he said that he no longer heard rumors that the vaccine was dangerous, and went to the clinic to get it.

He said he believes it’s important to get vaccinated because he believes in protecting yourself.

World health officials have warned for months that delaying vaccination globally could allow new variants to develop in countries with lower vaccination coverage.

To date, there have not been any cases of the Omicron variant at Tabitha Medical Clinic, but allowing COVID-19 to spread unchecked in poorer parts of the world is a recipe for disaster. disaster, officials said.

In some parts of Kenya, 5-7 people often share a 10 x 10 foot house, most families don’t have regular access to clean water and soap, and face masks can be very expensive for some people. those who live under US$2 per day.

“We have a lot of urban cottages,” says Ogogo, describing the community surrounding the clinic.

“Isolation is also very difficult. [Sick patients] will have to share with small housing units and this can increase the potential for the spread of the virus if a household member is infected.”

But even though the clinic can vaccinate today with doses from Canada, with other doses from Pfizer and Moderna arriving – vaccine sharing rates remain embarrassingly low, according to world health officials world, with rich countries achieving high levels of vaccination while some poorer parts of the world have not even received the first dose.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: “Vaccination is our best defense, said at a press conference last week. “But while many high-income countries report vaccine coverage rates of more than 60%, just over 7% of the African population is fully immunized – despite the increase in dosages shipped to the continent. this.”

COVAX is said to have received 3.67 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but they have had 589 million doses to date.

A database run by the International Monetary Fund and WHO that tracks the number of vaccines that countries have secured against their populations shows that Canada has secured 414% of the population – that is, we I have purchased enough vaccines to fully immunize our entire population four times .

According to the same database, Kenya only has enough vaccines for 56% of the population. The database does not look at how many people have received the vaccine in an area, but merely as a guaranteed or expected supply.

Another set of WHO and IMF data shows that 73 countries have failed to meet their target of 40% immunization coverage by the end of 2021. None of these countries are considered high-income.

Catherine Hankins, a member of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, says there are problems with the “lack of notice and short shelf life of donations.

“I mean countries […] She explains that vaccines with a shelf life of at least 10 weeks are needed to be able to use them, and they need to give four weeks notice that they will arrive.”

“The really important points are that you can feel like you’re doing well because you’re donating the vaccine, but if you’re donating a vaccine that has a shorter shelf life and you don’t tell the countries that it’s coming, they’re not able to put it to good use and so we really need to think about this together. How do we do this logistically? ”

“If Canada is committed to supporting unvaccinated immunization globally, we need to step up,” she said.

“Now we’re seeing what happens when we don’t pay attention to what’s going on in other countries.”

Hankins said vaccine production capacity in Africa will eventually need to be ramped up. To that end, the World Health Organization, COVAX and the Drug Patent Organization have partnered with CDC Africa and partners to create an mRNA technology transfer hub in South Africa. Unfortunately, its efforts will take time and the people of this continent need a vaccine now.

The local health workers at the Tabitha clinic, Kenya simply wanted a steady supply. So far, they have managed to inject the first doses of 1,026 recipients. People who work at the clinic say that despite widespread vaccine hesitancy, more and more people are starting to seek out the shot.

Ogogo says they need doses “without fear of delay, fear of getting to the facility and missing something.”

It was a desperate plea as the world learned hard lessons about shared protection.


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