Saturday, September 18, 2021

COVID-19: Mercy Corps Calls For Vaccine Equity In Africa

AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

As several African countries face the third wave of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), a global team of humanitarians, the Mercy Corps has called for vaccine equity to support mass vaccination so as to tackle the virus in Africa. 

According to WHO, Africa recorded an additional 1 million cases over the past month – the fastest surge the continent has seen. Unfortunately, Africa is also struggling with limited or no vaccine supplies to support mass vaccination to tackle the virus. 

Speaking on this development, the Mercy Corps’ regional director for Africa, Sean Granville-Ross, stressed that Africa was staring at a nightmare scenario as COVID-19 cases explode, driving many African nations closer to a catastrophe. 

He pointed out that even as COVID-19 cases are rising, only about 3 per cent of all global COVID-19 vaccine doses to date had been given in Africa, saying the number of vaccines available in Africa now was nowhere near the number needed to vaccinate clinically at-risk groups comprehensively, nor was it enough to meaningfully contain the spread of the virus. 

“The African Union’s commitment to reach 20 per cent vaccination rates by the end of 2021 is an essential starting point, but global efforts to meet it have fallen short. We could be into 2023 before 20 of the most conflict-affected countries globally, 10 of which are in Africa, have widespread access to vaccines. Our research also shows that the pandemic and the efforts to contain it without vaccines are amplifying the risk of global conflict. The longer communities must endure lockdowns, the more worried we become about the cascading side effects.

“Global efforts to send vaccines, including the US commitment to donate 25 million doses, are welcome, but they have to get in arms swiftly. We urge all higher-income countries to take concrete action to address the vast vaccine inequities keeping millions standing at the back of the line,” he said.

Similarly, the Mercy Corps Nigeria Country Director, Ndubisi Anyanwu, said “the humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria remains one of the most severe in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the number of people in need in Nigeria to 10.6 million from 7.9 million in January 2020. We are seeing increasing instability and armed group activities. COVID-19 lockdowns, border closures, and movement restrictions contributed to pervasive insecurity by intensifying widespread economic hardship and heightening gaps in security provision.

“There’s also rampant misinformation, so we started a rumour tracker to combat it. People need vaccines, but they also need information. They need to trust healthcare providers and be willing to take the vaccine when it’s offered to them.”

Also, the Mercy Corps Zimbabwe Country Director, Mildred Makore, said “positive COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly, and death rates are increasing day by day. Communities we work with now tell us that they can put these numbers to the faces, and it’s petrifying. 

“In partnership with a local radio station, Mercy Corps Zimbabwe is running a COVID-19 awareness campaign in high-risk areas and addressing misinformation and questions about vaccines. We are seeing vaccination centres overwhelmed with people who eagerly aspire to be vaccinated, meaning the communities are getting the message. Unfortunately, there are not enough shots for everyone. So far, only just over one million people have received the first dose.

A statement by Africa media and communications manager, Grace Ndungu, Makore said Africa urgently needed to find an effective and timely solution to enable the equitable distribution of vaccines to people everywhere.

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