The pandemic caused by Covid-19 has brought the whole world down; in particular, the poorest countries need more help to rehabilitate themselves, as they do not have the same resources at their disposal as the richest countries.
The African continent has fifty-four states, 1.4 billion inhabitants and countless natural resources, and despite this it is the poorest continent in the world. For this reason, many African countries are part of the Covax project.
An international programme started last June by the WHO, the Gavi Alliance and Cepi, Covax (Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility) aims to increase the number of vaccines in order to ensure their fair distribution in all countries. The ultimate goal of the programme is to purchase enough vaccines to immunise 20% of the populations of the poorest countries. With 190 participating countries, the Covax project is therefore a key aid in providing free access to vaccinations for those African countries that cannot afford to buy their own vaccine doses. The first country to receive doses from the project was Ghana, which received some 600,000 doses of the Astrazeneca (now Vaxzevria) vaccine on 24 February.
The WHO said that although the Covax programme has so far delivered the doses in 36 African countries, the number of doses received is not adequate because many of the workers at risk have not yet been covered. This partial coverage means that the virus is still spreading, even though doses have begun.
In addition, most of the 36 countries that have received the doses are currently finishing them or have already done so, for example Rwanda. Professional institutes have also stated that African states have so far had access to less than 2% of the total vaccine doses, and it has been calculated that Covax will not remove Covid from Africa without reaching at least the 60% vaccination threshold.
The main difficulty to be resolved, however, is the delay in the progress of vaccine administration: only 13 million of the 31.6 million doses delivered have been administered to date. This delay is caused by several problems; a first constraint is the operational and financial obstacles, i.e. little economic aid to support the operational system of vaccine administration, plus general disruption in planning and coordination. Another major problem is dictated by logistical complications, e.g. there is great and real difficulty in reaching remote locations. But the misinformation of most people remains a major concern; in order to get doses of vaccine, many desperate and uninformed people make up for it through illegal routes. In fact, a further problem in the African vaccine delivery landscape is the growing business of fake vaccines. The centre of this market is certainly the Kenyan port of Mombasa, where as many as 132 criminal groups are operating, which facilitates the opening of an access route for numerous fake medicines and vaccines, almost always from China and India. This means that in addition to the problem of poor administration and delayed scheduling, there is also the problem of side effects and illnesses caused by these dangerous fake medicines, which people in many African countries are purchasing in order to provide immunity from Covid-19. This market is certainly a sign of inadequate infrastructure, alarming poverty and an ever-expanding corruption and competition for control of strategic places such as the port of Mombasa. Although progress is being made in advancing vaccine delivery, most African countries are still stuck with the initial results: few people ever have the opportunity to be vaccinated.
With regard to the vaccine situation in Africa, the WHO has therefore declared that equitable access to vaccines must be everyone’s primary concern, in order to achieve a global elimination of the pandemic and to avoid a humanitarian defeat as a result of a poor international response in helping the poorest populations.
Translated by Maria Calvano