COVID-19 Vaccination and Inequality in Africa

COVID-19 Vaccination and Inequality in Africa

The human rights law principally highlights the underlying fundamental rights to the survival and basic well-being of all societies and human beings, consisting of the right to life, health, and acceptable living standards. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the conditions and exacerbated the current human rights violations. According to the human rights law, every one should have the highest standards of health, and governments should consider prevention of the threats to public health along with the provision of medica care to those requiring it (ohchr.org).

However, the impacts of extensive discrimination can be evident during crises, endangering individuals’ health and development of communities. COVID-19 is recently exposing global inequalities in the field healthcare with disproportionate impacts on marginalized and vulnerable populations typically deprived of the essential instruments and services. In such conditions, a significant proportion of the developing nations, particularly the African population, does not have timely access to lifesaving innovations and treatments, leading to long-lasting diseases and poverty. An evidence of such inequalities is in the richest countries worldwide already receiving all supplies of the vaccine so that the population which has received immunization at least one dose exceeds 20% in several cases. This is while roughly 1/1000 Africans had access to the vaccine, making the fight against virus more challenging due to disparities (The African report, 2021).

It is noteworthy that the African Center for Disease Control has provided many African countries with the required technical help, training, health promotion materials, and medical supplies to assist over the process of testing and treating individuals who suffer COVID-19. However, the best solution to the pandemic seems to be an effective vaccine (WHO, 2020a) which is associated with the protection given by the vaccine to the population at risk and assisting in the fight against the pandemic. These effective health tools are expected to function successfully for saving the lives of a significant number of people against the risk of the disease, particularly through effective implementation (Adebisi et al., 2020; Ikilezi et al., 2020).

Over the time, there has been much effort for disease eradication from the continent and stand against the massive morbidities and mortalities. Plans, strategies, and different interventions conducted in Africa have aimed at restricting various public health threats (Nkengasong et al., 2020). However, as COVAX Interim Distribution Forecast shows, it’s estimated that only 3% of the population in poor countries can receive vaccination through Covax be the end of mid-2021. It also projects that widespread vaccination of Africa and Latin America will not be possible before 2023/2024.

A look at the previous experiences of Africa in the fight against pandemics shows that vaccination has been provided for the continent after millions of people lost their lives, and it is possible that similar tragedies are repeated in the case of COVID-19 pandemic (Edward-Ekpu, 2020). The conditions worsen as the experience of other prevalent diseases such as TB and HIV makes the population extremely vulnerable to the large scale outspread of COVID-19, increasing their risk of death from the pandemic (Davis, 2020).

In the case that targeted interventions and basic assistance are not provided for the African continent, the burden of the disease will last longer that expected. Only close and strong cooperation of the international community can be effective in addressing inequal distribution of vaccines and the successful fight against COVID-19 pandemic (Lucero-Prisno III et al., 2021).

Debates and concerns on the access of low-income and middle-income countries to COVID-19 vaccines are continuing. Obviously, careful attention to the human rights, including the issue of discrimination and the respect for human rights principles such as transparency and respect for dignity of all human beings can be effective in response to the upheavals and disruptions which will be undoubtedly experienced during the crisis (Human Rights Watch, 2020).

References
Adebisi YA, Eliseo-Lucero Prisno D III, Nuga BB, 2020. Last fight of wild polio in Africa: Nigeria’s battle. Public Health Pract 1: 100043.
COVAX Interim Distribution Forecast, https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/act-accelerator/covax/covax-interim-distribution-forecast.pdf?sfvrsn=7889475d_5
Davies, M-A (2020), “HIV and risk of COVID-19 death: a population cohort study from the Western Cape Province
Edward-Ekpu U, 2020. Most of Africa Will Not Have Access to COVID-19 Vaccines for up to a Year After Approval. Quartz Africa. Available at: https://qz.com/africa/1889305/most-ofafrica-wont-have-new-covid-19-vaccines-for-a-year/. Accessed December 24, 2020
Human Rights Watch (2020). Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response.
Ikilezi G, Augusto OJ, Dieleman JL, Sherr K, Lim SS, 2020. Effect of donor funding for immunization from Gavi and other development assistance channels on vaccine coverage: evidence from 120 low- and middle-income recipient countries. Vaccine 38: 588–596.
Lucero-Prisno III, D. E.; Olushola Ogunkola, I.; Frank Imo, U.; and Adebayo Adebisi, Y. (2021). Who Will Pay for the COVID-19 Vaccines for Africa? Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 104(3): 794–796, doi:10.4269/ajtmh.20-1506
Nkengasong JN, Ndembi N, Tshangela A, Raji T, 2020. COVID-19 vaccines: how to ensure Africa has access. Nature 586: 197–199.
OHCHR, https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/health/pages/internationalstandards.aspx
The African Report (2021). https://www.theafricareport.com/69854/covid-with-vaccine-deliveries-to-africa-the-race-for-equity-begins/