While European countries begin vaccinating their low-risk populations, healthcare workers in Africa are risking their lives without vaccination
Rabat – Front-line healthcare workers in Africa are being infected with COVID-19 at a rate of 11 every hour, according to the WHO. These numbers do not represent a peak, but an average over the last year. With case numbers again growing, this rate is likely to increase.
In African hospitals a battle is being fought against a third wave of infections, with little protection for healthcare staff.
The global vaccine disparity is already creating two alternate realities. In Europe, vaccination campaigns are starting to vaccinate low-risk categories of the population while in Africa healthcare workers face possible infection every day.
“Covid-19 has heavily jolted the health workforce in the African region,” the WHO has warned. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, 267 health worker infections have been recorded on average every day, translating to 11 new health worker infections per hour,” the global health organization reported.
Countries that have arranged a steady supply of vaccines, like Morocco, are pursuing a strategy of vaccinating the majority of the population in order to reach “herd immunity.”
In practice this means large numbers of low-risk citizens will receive a vaccination in order to stop the spread of the virus.
For countries without a supply of vaccines, it means there are few vaccines to protect even the most at-risk frontline workers like medical staff.
Facing long hours amid difficult conditions, healthcare workers in Africa now account for 3.5% of all infections on the continent.
Governor Alfred Mutua, of Machakos county in Kenya lamented shortages of equipment and hospital beds. He told the Guardian that “people are waiting for others to die to get a bed.”
The reason for global vaccine shortages appears to stem from the failure of the select group of pharmaceuticals that hold vaccine patents, to produce enough vaccines for the world.
The WHO and a large group of developing nations have called for a “waiver” on vaccine patents that would allow the production of vaccines worldwide and alleviate the disparity between rich and poor countries.
That request however has been blocked, primarily by countries that host the for-profit vaccine manufacturers that are currently making record profits.