Vaccine nationalism is Africa’s biggest challenge right now. Rwanda seems to be the only country in Africa that appears to have a grip on the vaccine chaos.
I was kind of okay with progress until confusion began to rare its ugly head. On one side, there was no commercial vaccine in Kenya. The government was adamant that what was available was the limited free Astrazaneca jab. On another, there was a commercial vaccine available for some cool Sh 11,000 in some places. Wow. In the midst of a pandemic and without any clarity on safety and efficacy, capitalism was entrenching its patriarchy.
You can understand my frustration. Let me explain. We are in the midst of the third wave and some variants of the virus are more transmissible than others. Some 5 counties are under lock and key, meaning we can marinate within the parameters of those 5 and just hope things get better. They should if we behave. The hopelessness I feel however comes from this simple question. Lockdown yes, then what?
If I were, to be honest, and answer that question, the future doesn’t look so bright. If a 4th wave comes knocking, let’s hope it doesn’t stay long. Let’s hope it’s not as lethal. The US is already experiencing it and it doesn’t look so good. Never mind they have a more efficient vaccination campaign. We are faced by a myriad of challenges including vaccine hesitancy.
The inequities in health care and the economy are clear. It is heartwrenching to be a witness to a hopeless situation that you can hardly help salvage. Sanitize. Mask. Social distance. My not-so-new vocabulary is what I am hanging on to as I wait on a miracle.
We were together, then we were not. The world tumbled on the Covid-19 pandemic together. What respective governments did between that time and the development of the vaccine is now determining whether we emerge from the pandemic together. So far, the picture is bleak. Kenya and many other developing countries are on their own. For Kenya, I speak for the motherland, is experiencing what I would call, a deja-vu of sorts. I won’t get into the details but UK has banned Kenyan citizens from entering its territory. It is a wake-up call on so many aspects. And for the record, UK soldiers brought to Kenya the deadlier version of the virus.
Kenya clapped back. The ministry of foreign affairs announced that passengers arriving, or transiting through the UK, will face 14-days mandatory quarantine at a government facility, at their own expense.
Nothing reminds us of our interdependence than the COvid 19 pandemic. There is palpable fear. The way countries are reacting to the simplest stimuli is a clear indication that recovery is going to be an uphill task.You don’t have to look far to understand why. The distribution of the covid 19 vaccines tells it all.
Covid 19 Vaccine for Everyone?
The ambitious Covax initiative that is spearheading a campaign to get poor countries vaccines is already facing a shortfall running into billions. You can calculate the amount yourself. The figure is about $23 billion. The Kenyan government has already stated that the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will be late. “There may be a delay because of India, we are pursuing other avenues to ensure that there is no shortage of the vaccine,” said Susan Mochache, PS, Ministry of Health.
Global solidarity in fighting Covid 19 is our one assured way out of this. WHO has emphasized it. The manufacturers of these vaccines, however, and those in positions of influence keep losing this focus.
India went the vaccine nationalism way.
What did India do exactly? It has stopped taking new orders for vaccine exports. It argues that the demand for domestic vaccines is too high now and cannot afford to export. Kenya and other African countries are affected because the Serum Institute of India has been supplying vaccines to the covax initiative.
The UK is among the countries that have bought and are hoarding vaccines. The US is actually hoarding vaccines it doesn’t need. The US is actually behaving like a pathetic entitled child who has access to a resource that others need but won’t share. There have been calls made to the US to release the millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it is keeping. It hasn’t started using this vaccine on its population as it awaits clinical trial results. Those who need it like Kenya, won’t get it. At least not from the US which has about 30 million doses. Yes, you read that right, 30 million doses that are not in use are whiling away at a storage facility just because.
Gobbling the vaccines with such appetite has left countries that do not have the financial muscle at the mercy of the universe.
It’s not all doom though. A vaccine will come. The question is when?
Developed countries are fully aware that mitigating the throes of this pandemic takes collective responsibility. No amount of vaccine nationalism or diplomatic sputs is going to stop this virus from spreading or mutating. Equitable access to vaccines is one way of ensuring that countries recover faster.