While India battles a catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 infections, health officials in Africa are watching with alarm as their immunization campaigns, heavily dependent on vaccine imports from the subcontinent, stutter to a halt. “Two months ago, India was doing a victory dance and handing out vaccines around the world like candies,” said Dr Ayoade Alakija, cochair of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, which is co-ordinating distribution on the continent. “They were saying how wonderfully they had done because of the immunity and the youth of their population. Look where India is today.”
The crisis in India, whereas many as 3,000 people are dying a day, has provided proof, Alakija and others argued, of what could happen in Africa if vaccination campaigns are not rapidly accelerated and the virus is allowed to spread and mutate. Africa and other under-vaccinated parts of the world urgently need to catch up, said Professor Trudie Lang, head of the Global Health Network at the University of Oxford. “India is a horrifying warning about the dangers of complacency,” she said.
African health officials aim to vaccinate at least 30 percent of the 1.2bn population by the end of the year, rising to 60 percent or higher after that. But supply constraints, logistical problems and vaccine hesitancy mean immunization campaigns have been patchy.
In total, Africa has received just 32m doses of vaccine, of which about 18m have made it into people’s arms. Doses of the
Oxford/AstraZeneca shot from the multilateral Covax programme make up the bulk of jabs deployed so far, but supply has dried up after Delhi blocked exports by the Serum Institute of India to battle its own outbreak.