Africa is facing the third wave and the spread of variants without access to vaccines

Africa is facing the third wave and the spread of variants without access to vaccines
Africa is facing the third wave and the spread of variants without access to vaccines
in photo: Credit: Oxfam

Coronavirus infections are decreasing around the world. Or rather, almost all over the world, because in Africa instead the new cases continue to grow. And the continent continues to lack adequate access to vaccines. The alarm is raised by two NGOs, Oxfam and Emergency which, taking up some data from the World Health Organization (WHO), underline how several African countries are facing the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic totally unprepared: in the last week, on the contrary than what happened in the rest of the world, the incidence of new infections recorded per 100 thousand inhabitants has grown by 33%. The result? Over 180,000 new people infected (even if the number is probably underestimated due to the difficulties of tracing and diagnosis) with 42% more mortality.

The two organizations operate in different countries, including Uganda and Sudan, now exhausted by the health crisis. Furthermore, according to the WHO, the variants of Covid-19 they are just broadening and accelerating the new wave. However, this does not correspond to an increase in the supply of vaccines that is capable of limiting their spread. And without the necessary aid from richer countries, sub-Saharan Africa risks being paralyzed.

Today in Uganda, hospitals do not have sufficient oxygen for patients and find it difficult to implement preventive and protective rules for the health staff, which unfortunately is experiencing an increase in infections“, said Giacomo Menaldo, country director of Emergency in Uganda, a country that with an average of 816 new positives recorded per day is one of the most affected on the African continent. Within a month, the weekly infections increased by about thirty times: if in the week of May 10 they were 366, in that of June 14 they were 9,926.

Also in Sudan the situation remains very critical. This is one of the least developed countries in the world and only in urban centers is there access to health facilities. According to official data, there have been around 36,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and 2,700 deaths: a number that is widely underestimated and that does not reflect the real extent of the infection according to the NGOs. “We who live here see the effects of the selfishness of rich countries that have not done everything in their power to start a vaccination campaign capable of really stemming the virus. And now the situation is dramatic“commented Costanza Barucci, Oxfam Italia project coordinator in Sudan.

What these countries are going through, the NGOs continue in a statement, highlights how weak the initiative is Covax, which had precisely the objective of bringing vaccines to poor countries. Nearly 3.2 million doses would have been destined for Uganda, but to date it has received just over a million. Only 1% of the population has been vaccinated. In Sudan, on the other hand, just over 600,000 doses were administered at the end of June: even in this case only 1.5% of the population received the vaccine.

Overall, only 2.6% of the population has received at least one dose in Africa so far. In Europe we are at 50.4%. According to People’s Vaccine Alliance sharing patents is the only solution to timely vaccinate the world population and thus block the spread of variants. “The suspension of the intellectual property of the patents held by the pharmaceutical giants on Covid vaccines and the transfer of know-how, to make it possible to produce them directly in developing countries, increasing the doses available globally, remains the only real way to defeating the pandemic“, added Sara Albiani, Oxfam Italia global health policy advisor and Rossella Miccio, president of Emergency. To conclude:”The system of donations of doses from rich countries to poor countries and the Covax initiative will not stop the pandemic and in the meantime hundreds of thousands of people will still die. This is why we strongly re-launch the appeal to Italy and the European Union to take a stand to make vaccines a global public good“.

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