WE ARE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS EVEN WITH THE COVID-19 VACCINE
Recently I posed the question “when shall we have our shots of the Covid-19 Vaccine” in one of my article on this platform. I argued the West and it’s capitalist conglomerates are developing the vaccines but they would first take care of their people before considering the global South – South. This is in view of the devastating effects of the Pandemic on their population and economies. The vaccine is here and they are doing what was predicted.
One year since the WHO declared the COVID-19 as a pandemic, meaning there is no part of the world that is immune from the disease.
As at today the world infection rate surpasses 128,223,872 million confirmed cases with 2,804,120 million death globally. Of this the Americas recorded 55,941,329 Million confirmed cases while Europe had 44,809,120 Million.South East Asia had a total of 14,911,540 Million confirmed cases. Eastern Mediterranean had 7,564,704. Million, Africa had 3,083, 436 with western Pacific having 1, 912, 547 million cases. Source (WHO).
The world leading economies of North America and Western Europe are currently the communities most devastated by the Pandemic. And this means there will be consequences on the world economic systems.
The rush for cure or vaccine by these power houses to contain the spread of the virus even though outwardly it seems humanistic, the underlying interest of the capitalist corporate institutions are for profit. This dual interest is dangerously pushing the world to adopt a protectionist approach in the global distribution of the vaccines.
But will the efforts meet up with the scientific demand of creating “Herd Immunity” that would facilitate the containment of the virus spread in Africa and in many of the countries in the global south – south?
To understand the politics of the vaccine in relation to creating “Herd Immunity” the question most germane to ask would be what is herd immunity?
“Herd immunity” is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that can occur with some diseases when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through vaccination or previous infections, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity.
The next most pertinent question would be what percentage of the population of a given people would be required to be vaccinated in order to achieve “herd immunity” against COVID-19 in the World or a Country?
In demographics, the world population as at March 2020 was estimated at about 7.8 billion people (Wikipedia)
Available literature shows that “Herd immunity” thresholds for COVID-19 are only estimates at this point. This is due to lack of previous clinical records on COVID-19. But experts generally agree that somewhere between 70% and 85% of the population must be protected to suppress the spread of the virus.This means about two third of the world population representing about 4.5 billion people have to be vaccinated in order to achieve the required global “herd immunity” threshold.
What would then be the options and the implication of this to Nigeria and other developing economies?
Nigeria is the 7th most populous country of the world with it’s population now put at 206 million people. As at today the Nigerian had 162,762 confirmed cases with 2,056 death from COVID-19. Source (WHO)To achieve the country “herd immunity” some 70% to 85% of the population must be vaccinated, meaning about 154.5 million Nigerian must be vaccinated before we can achieve a country wide “herd immunity”
How can this is happen in the light of lack of “buy-in” by a significant percent of the population who think the disease does not even exist. More so the refusal by many to have their shots of the vaccine poses a serious set back to the roll out plan.
Other observed issues include; Firstly, The present distribution pattern of the vaccine put the third world countries at disadvantage since all the producers of the vaccines are located in the first world and they are creating laws and bottle necks to ensure their societies are served first. The corporations that produced vaccine are under intense pressure to suspend delivery to other countries outside their spheres.
Secondly, many countries in developing nations, Nigeria inclusive do not have capacities to sustain the regime of some the vaccines and more importantly some also lack the resources to ensure steady supply.
Thirdly, the denial of the existence of the disease among a greater percentage of the population also poses a serious challenge.
Fourthly, the general apathy on the part of even the elites and majority of the population to receive their shots confounds the efforts of attaining “herd immunity” in most societies of the third world countries
Gratifying as it is, Nigeria on the 2nd of March 2021 Nigeria received its first shipment of 3.94 million doses of the vaccine a far cry from the 154.5 million doses needed to achieve the country “herd immunity”
The AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID 19 vaccine recieved from Serum Institute, India through an arrangement facilitated by COVAX in partnership with CEPI, GAVI, UNICEF and WHO.
The government has since commenced the vaccination exercise through the National Health Care Development Agency. According to unconfirmed sources Nigeria plans to vaccinate 40% of it’s population before the end of 2021 and hopes to achieve 70% by the end of 2022.
The National Health Care Development Agencies has released a portal for online registration and according the to drop down, priorities would be given to frontline health care workers, those in high risk areas like entry points, contact tracing teams , teachers, the elderly, those with co -morbidities such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, HIV and AIDS. This will be followed by the general public.
The emergence of the new variant of the virus has rendered whatever good news about the vaccine a suspect as the global spike of infection of the new COVID-19 cases rose for a fifth consecutive week with over 3.8 million new cases reported. The number of new deaths also increased for the second consecutive week increasing by 5% compared to last week with over 64,000 death.
All regions of the world reported increases in number of cases with largest happening in South East Asia, Western Pacific and African. Going by this it is clear the world is not out of the woods yet.
The implications of the trajectory of cases in low in come nations means their vaccine rollout plan is disproportionate to those achieved in developed economies.
The take from this discussion, Africa and other countries in the south- south must continue with the processes put in place to keep their environments safer.
We must continue with the principles of the 3Cs, meaning avoid living in closed, crowded or involved close contact, wear the face mask, regularly and thoroughly clean hands with alcohol- based hand rub or wash them with soap and water and continue with all other protocols we were told to do at the initial outbreak of the pandemic.
We must not loose our guards in the light of the availability of the vaccine. The drive of attaining the “herd immunity” is going to take time and resources which our economies may not readily support. Government must not relent in advocacy to keep the society informed. Where the need arises legislations and enforcement must be strengthned. We cannot afford to be lazy, our health system can not withstand the pandemic spike now being reported.
The world developed economies may soon achieve the “herd immunity” and they are luckily come up with stringent measures that may curtail global movement of goods and services and international travels.
The combined actions of the capitalist corporations and the effect of the pandemic will take it’s tolls on our fragile economies and this can be devastating.
The West may soon contain the devastating effects of disease and as soon as they are comfortable, their capitalist corporations that developed the vaccines will start counting their losses and this will be transferred on us and we must pay with our meagre resources.
It also does not end there, the charlatans and bad companies are working and may soon come up with cheaper vaccines, they will be dangling them in the faces our corrupt leaders and bureaucrats, who for their pecuniary reasons, gladly welcome buy and flood the system with fake vaccines, thereby exposing us to greater serious health hazards.
The key for our governments under the circumstance is to maintain and sustain whatever arrangements they have with COVAX, WHO and other arms of the United Nations.
As for the way forward, we must maintain strict compliance with the rudimentary protocol that brought the world to where it is today, progress must be gradual based on our abilities, resources and achievements worldwide.
The COVID-19 whether we like it or not will be with us for a long time. We must be prepared to accept it as a way of living and live with it until the world is able to defeat the scourge. There is no short cut in this game.