We take an in-depth look at how three African countries have coped with the pandemic so far and how they are rolling out immunization programs.
The impact of the pandemic on the African continent has been varied due to the fact that African countries are not on an equal footing. For example, countries with the lowest incomes may have some of the highest burdens of infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV / AIDS, as well as cultural differences that affect, for example, reluctance to immunize .
The implementation of social distancing measures in African countries has also not been applied consistently, due to the major impoverishment of some communities. Access to vaccines is a problem facing the continent as thousands of citizens are not officially registered or can easily access healthcare.
While individual African countries have their own issues, the management of COVID-19 cases on the continent is also a global issue, as Western countries contribute to equitable distribution of vaccines. International assistance is received to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines and a range of suppliers continues to be utilized through the Africa Vaccine Procurement Task Force (AVATT).
Sharon obahor took a closer look at three African countries and how they have handled the pandemic and the vaccine rollout so far.
Reported cases *: 2,963,679
Deaths reported: 90,079
South Africa was among the countries that put in place a strict lockdown during the first months of the pandemic. The South African government has exercised its knowledge in managing the spread of the coronavirus due to previous public health campaigns targeting the spread of diseases such as HIV / AIDS.
However, the lockdowns resulted in economic hardship for vulnerable members of the South African community and the rollout of the vaccine, although initially very successful – South Africa getting many doses ahead of other countries and ahead of the deals via COVAX for additional doses – encountered difficulties. These include vaccines that must be destroyed because they could not be distributed before the expiration date and civil unrest impacting immunization programs. Currently, despite an adequate vaccine supply, deployment has slowed mainly due to vaccine reluctance, forcing the government to delay deliveries to avoid vaccine wastage.
The beta variant of the virus was first detected in South Africa. That doesn’t mean, however, that this is where he first appeared. The country has some of Africa’s most developed testing and sequencing facilities, enabling them to track and sequence new variants of SARS-CoV-2 from positive cases when they see the numbers unexpectedly rise. It also meant that South Africa was one of the first countries to sound the alarm bells about the new Omicron variant after an increase in cases.
Prof. Faith Osier, Executive Director of Imperial’s Human Immunology Laboratory, said: “Although [the Omicron variant] has been identified and sequenced in South Africa, people in the region are suffering without vaccines and livelihoods are further pushed back by the renewal of general travel restrictions. This vicious circle continues. We cannot wish for this. Calls to action seem to be falling on deaf ears as nationalism takes hold. Vaccines are piled up and unfortunately even wasted, while the poorest countries remain in need. “
Researchers, including Imperial Oil’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis and the Jameel Institute, are working with South African scientists to analyze the new Omicron variant and the risk it poses.
Reported cases: 214,113
Deaths reported: 2,977
Despite being a high risk country due to population growth, Nigeria would have handled the pandemic reasonably well due to previous public health campaigns such as the use of non-contact thermometers during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. A major concern for Nigeria and others Populated African countries are managing the COVID-19 epidemic alongside infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has defined measures to deal with the economic difficulties made worse by the pandemic. In total, 50 billion naira has been budgeted to support low-income households and local businesses. However, the effectiveness of this initiative remains unknown.
Although Nigeria initially used the AstraZeneca vaccine, the ease of administering the vaccine was a key issue that led the country to turn to the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is easier to deploy for health services and to adhere to citizens. Concerns about underreporting of cases and vaccines not made available to all citizens apply to Nigeria due to the conflict caused by the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast of the country.
In September 2021, the government of Nigeria received approval from the Board of Directors of the World Bank for a credit of $ 400 million in additional funding for the acquisition and deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country. Nigeria’s COVID-19 response program has been expanded to purchase affordable COVID-19 vaccines for 18 percent (40 million) of the Nigerian population and support the effective deployment of vaccines for 50 percent (110 million) of its citizens.
Reported cases: 127,523
Deaths reported: 3,258
Many African countries benefited at the onset of the pandemic due to their relatively young populations. However, Uganda has been hit hard by the Delta variant of the virus over the summer and many hospitals have faced full wards. As the number of hospitalizations fell again, reports suggested this did not reflect the true state of the pandemic in Uganda, so thousands or tens of thousands of other COVID-19 patients would have chosen to follow. herbal treatment and staying at home to avoid the high fees charged by hospitals.
Vaccine rollout has also been tricky, due to tight travel restrictions imposed and many unable to afford vaccination sites. Dr Benjamin Pierce, director of operations for the future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Center at Imperial, explains how their own vaccine trial was sabotaged by the lockdowns: “The lockdowns in Uganda at the start of the pandemic were extraordinary; being more severe and more closely watched than in many neighboring countries.
Dr Pierce says that while vaccines from various sources – including China, the United States and the United Kingdom – have started to arrive in the country, they have arrived too slowly. “The government is still focusing on priority groups to be vaccinated first and is behind on its goals of fully immunizing 10% of its population by the end of 2021. By October 2021, nearly 1% have received two doses due to little to no access for the majority of the population. Fortunately, the pace of deployment has accelerated by November 2021. “
* Data on COVID-19 cases and deaths are taken from the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis situation reports and are accurate as of December 14, 2021.