Africa could experience elitism in COVID-19 distribution, warns CDC
The African Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is calling for equitable distribution of the vaccine in the African continent.
According to Tajudeen Raji, Head, Division of Public Health Institutes and Research at the African CDC, the African populous would like to see fairness when it comes to distribution. “One out of every four Africans believes that that everyone should get vaccinated,” Raji says.
Speaking during the Africa healthcare international conference, Thabani Maphosa, managing director, country programs department, GAVI vaccines alliance said despite the arrival of the vaccine on the continent, there is fear of elitism when it comes to distribution.
According to Thabani, over 22 countries have received their respective shipments of vaccines among them Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. The total dosage that has been shipped into the continent is a little over 14.7 million doses.
“While we are all celebrating the arrival of the vaccine my greatest fear is intra country equity. Question is, will the vaccine get to the right people or will there be elitisms where who you are, what you do, your power and proximity to power is the deciding factor,” said Thabani.
However, despite calls for equal distribution of the vaccine, the uptake varies according to region. According to Raji, North Africa has a higher uptake of over 90 percent while central African countries like Democratic Republic of Congo have an uptake of about 50 percent.
“Safety is the major concern. 1out of every four who will not take the vaccine cite safety. Further, some do not believe Covid 19 is real and think it is a conspiracy theory while others say they have never seen anyone with Covid-19 hence see no need for the virus,” added Raji.
The vaccine laxity in the continent is contrary to global perception where the world is receiving the jabs with open arms and relief.
Ethel Makila, Associate Director Advocacy, Policy, Communications, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) attributed the hesitance to various factors. “Access to the vaccine is one of the factors. People are not certain whether they will get it or not hence don’t put much through to it. Further do people trust the institutions making the vaccines? Do they know the origin of the vaccine? What is their perception of risk when it comes to getting the vaccine jab and do they trust their governments to get the right vaccine to them? These are some of the questions fueling the hesitation,” said Makila.
Makila added that African governments must begin funding research and development in the field of vaccine development and manufacturing. This way, Africa will be ready for the next pandemic. Further it will change the global view that Africa and Africans can only be used as guinea pigs in testing the vaccines.
To enable a paradigm shift in the thought process of the community, Dr. Joy Mugambi, Vice-chair Kenya Association of Family Physicians (KAFP) said community engagement is key.
“We need to work with community health care workers to sensitize the communities on the importance of vaccination. They community knows the workers and trust them. This is the only way to change the communities perception of vaccines,” said Joy.
Africa began receiving vaccines with Ghana being the first to receive a shipment of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, part of an initial 2.4 million doses to be shipped by COVAX in 2021.
Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo together with his wife, Rebecca Akufo-Addo received the first shots of the vaccine with priority being given to health care workers and government officials .
In Kenya, the 1.02 million that were shipped in on May 5, are being distributed across the country for healthcare workers and Armed Forces.
Dr. Patrick Amoth, the Director-General for the Ministry of Health and Vice President World Health Organization Executive Board was the first to receive the jab.