The doctor of Emergency in Africa without vaccines: “It’s a medical suicide”

The doctor of Emergency in Africa without vaccines: “It’s a medical suicide”
The doctor of Emergency in Africa without vaccines: “It’s a medical suicide”

There is nothing more literary today in Khartoum. In Sudan told by Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin – who narrates the conflicts of class rather than ethnicity, as done with the famous The Messiah of Darfur – a macroscopic and tragically extemporaneous analysis of the conflict between the North and the South of the World is staged. The first committed to facing the front with the sound of lockdowns and impositions no-vax, the second dedicated to the frantic search for those vaccines that were promised and never delivered.

“We are facing medical suicide”, the manager Franco Masini explains to me from the Salam Heart Surgery Center in Khartoum. Cardiologist, 70, originally from Parma where he was also head of the local coronary care unit, since he retired in 2018 he has worked full time with Emergency. “In Sudan – continues Masini – there have been various phases of the pandemic. There was a lockdown, more announced than practiced. Now the country is discovering the pitfalls of Covid-19 “.

In what sense?

There was no big concern before, but now things are changing. During these years the Salam center, the only one that, thanks to Emergency, provides free heart surgery assistance throughout Africa, has always remained open. We continued to make interventions, reducing work, but always trying to be careful to stem Covid-19. His entry into our walls would be a disaster.

Have you succeeded?

Until now, yes, thanks also to molecular buffers. If before we found few positives per week, even none during the summer, things are different now. The number of infections has increased exponentially for two months: every day we find one or two positive patients, which we send to the Covid-19 centers in the area. For the most part, around 80% are asymptomatic.

What is the health situation in Sudan today?

Dramatic. Intensive care is full and mortality is on the rise.

How is the vaccination campaign going?

It does not proceed. Only 1.3% of the population is vaccinated here and no more doses arrive, despite promises. We only vaccinated the hospital staff, about 440 people of which 40 of international origin. Since April we have had three vaccination campaigns: one in April / May and one in August / September with AstraZeneca, and one two weeks ago with Johnson & Johnson. The government-backed Covax program had promised millions of doses, only a paltry percentage arrived. Sudan has 44 million inhabitants, and only 1.5 million doses have been injected to date.

How do you explain it?

Unfortunately, we do not realize that the greed of rich countries will be suicide in the long run. South Africa is the African country that vaccinates the most, it has administered doses to 24% of the population, while in the rest of the continent the percentage of vaccinated is very low. We are dealing with about 1-2% of the inhabitants. So, however, Covid-19 does not stop.

He is right: it does not stop.

This is the real scandal! For a year they have been promising vaccines that do not arrive. I don’t understand why, now that they have made a profit, the pharmaceutical companies are not releasing patents. They should be made available: everyone should have the opportunity to be immunized.

What are the consequences?

We encourage the spread of new variants. The fewer people are protected, the more the variants multiply.

These days the alarm, raised by African scientists, relates to the Omicron variant found in South Africa.

It is the least similar to the variations examined during the pandemic. This is also why vaccinating the population of the whole world, not just the Western one, is essential. We are faced with a very short-sighted view of things. It is not possible to ignore 98% of the African population just because it does not have the funds to support the purchases.

Then, it should also be a selfish speech.

In what sense selfish?

I repeat: the pandemic can only be stopped if it is stopped across the planet. There are no barriers to a virus. Borders can be closed, but the recent present has shown us that it is useless. We risk that the variants multiply indefinitely.

The situation in Africa, where 17% of the world population lives, is therefore disastrous.

Here it is as if we were a month before the discovery of the vaccine. Here there is no possibility of treatment and the slightly richer ones have gone to get their doses administered in the Gulf countries.

So there are currently no no-vaxes in Sudan?

No. Indeed yes. Here I am novax because there is no vaccine.

We are faced with a paradox. In Europe, at the moment, great efforts are focused on convincing people to get vaccinated, while in Africa there is no way to access the doses. How is Italy seen from Sudan?

Well … It is a little hard to understand it. As much as you try to understand the personal motivations of those who do not get vaccinated, you do not understand why, where the means are available, not all are used. Also for the buffer issue here it is very complicated: they are not very widespread, the numbers are around 1500/2000 per day and tracking Covid-19 becomes impossible. If the situation goes on like this it won’t be easy.

I know you have to go back to the operating room, first does it take away my curiosity?

If I can.

She is 70 years old. Instead of enjoying his retirement, he chose to go to Sudan.

Because I shared, and I share every day, Gino Strada’s warning: to create and offer free assistance in high quality structures. Facilities in which we would like to be treated ourselves, and the people we love. In my opinion, healthcare has nothing to do with profit. Here at the Salam Center we treat patients from almost thirty countries all over Africa and everything is free. The visits we do, the surgery and the treatments for life. I believe that healthcare, as Gino always said, is a field in which profit should have no place.

This is not the case though.

We are also having proof of this from this long pandemic.

Can I confess that I find something heroic about her?

Let’s not exaggerate. I just feel like a doctor.

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