Africa the Initial Testing Ground for Coronavirus Vaccine Doses
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that 220 million covid-19 vaccine doses will be tested on the African population. The distribution will be based on nation inhabitant numbers and — front-line health workers and the most vulnerable being given first-batch priority, as confirmed by WHO Africa programme manager Richard Mihigo.
Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO Africa immunisation and vaccines coordinator, outlined the process, "This will not necessarily cover all the needs of the continent but at least will cover 20 percent of the African population, initially prioritising those that are on the frontline, healthcare workers, then expanding to cover vulnerable groups such as the elderly or those with a pre-existing condition."
COVAX is the global vaccine initiative that consists of nine vaccine candidates being tested around the world — two of which are already being tested in Africa, according to the head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Richard Hatchett. The initiative seeks to contribute to the purchase and equitable distribution of 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021.
Mixed Reactions from Africans
Mr. Mihigo volunteered that all 54 African countries have expressed their interest in participating in this initiative and some African leaders are publicly welcoming the vaccine trials.
Mitoha Ondo'o Ayekaba, Vice-minister for Health of Equatorial Guinea is in support, "From the Equatorial Guinean perspective, I think the government position has consistently been that all efforts to contain the pandemic in the country has to be free for all citizens."
However, not all Africans share this sentiment as an incident back on April 2 that saw two French professors — during a broadcast on the local channel LCI, overtly suggest that coronavirus vaccine trials be conducted on Africans because ‘in Africa there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care’ ignited a fire of indignation amongst many Africans worldwide.
Their remarks set social media networks ablaze in protest as many within the African population declared that they will not be used as"lab rats" or "guinea pigs" in the initial vaccine trials that will eventually benefit the entire human population.
The controversy found its way to Geneva, where the director of the World Health Organisation, Ethiopian doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, interviewed by a Nigerian journalist, castigated the banter of the French professors — labelling their mentality "colonial" and their remarks "racist." His stance was as follows, "Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine."
This incident only added to the already existent distrust that many people worldwide have of organisations that seek to conduct medical tests to reduce diseases.
Covid-19 Numbers in Africa
Africa has a population of over 1.3 billion people and hit the 1.2 million mark of confirmed Covid-19 cases. Around half of these cases are attributed to South Africa, the hardest-hit country on the continent with the seventh-highest number of cases globally — whose population started coronavirus vaccine trials back in June amidst public demonstrations from some locals.
In proportion to the case numbers, the continent has confirmed under 30,000 deaths with a recovery rate of around 72%
According to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University, over 26.19 million Covid-19 cases have been reported worldwide with recoveries over 17.4 million. The US, Brazil, India and Russia are currently worst-hit countries.