Covid-19: Africa’s Vaccine Plan Hampered By Conspiracies and Distrust

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Covid-19: Africa’s Vaccine Plan Hampered By Conspiracies and Distrust” – below is their description.

    As if the struggle to secure its meager supplies of Covid-19 vaccines wasn’t bad enough, Africa is now having a hard time getting people to take them. Only 5.22 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have been vaccinated, a region with a population of about a billion.

    From suspicions about Chinese-made vaccines in Zimbabwe and conspiracy theories in Ivory Coast about Covid-19 being “a planned event by foreign actors” to Somalia, where the Islamist militant Al-Shabaab group is warning people they’re “guinea pigs” for AstraZeneca, large sections of Africans are steering clear of vaccines. Only about 17.5% of the doses available in Ivory Coast and 19% in Zimbabwe have found their way into arms. Already lagging behind the rest of the world in its inoculations, the wave of vaccine skepticism — made worse by a lack of trust in local governments and misinformation on social media — threatens to put the continent even further behind.

    “There’s a lot of fear and suspicion surrounding the vaccines,” said Salomon Sadia Koui, a 32-year-old nurse who waited for people to turn up at a white vaccination tent at the Parc des Sports de Treichville in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. “Women ask if the shot will make them sterile. They believe it’s a way to control the population because Africans have too many children.”

    Vaccine hesitancy is standing in the way of efforts by African governments to head off successive waves of the virus. A prolonged pandemic will delay the continent’s recovery, already forecast by the International Monetary Fund to be the slowest region to revive. It will also provide a fertile breeding ground for virus variants that are reducing the efficacy of some of the vaccines used across the rest of the world.

    The reluctance to get inoculated comes as the relentless pace of deaths from the pandemic continues unabated. Having claimed more than 3 million lives across the globe since it emerged in 2019, the virus’s burden is increasingly being borne by some of the poorest places on the planet.

    Africa is relying primarily on the AstraZeneca shots supplied by Covax — the initiative backed by the WHO, the vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to offer doses cheaply to developing countries. The program has delivered about 11.5 million doses to Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Senegal and other countries have received doses donated by China, Russia and India.

    Even as vaccines start to trickle in, a deep distrust of government is becoming one of the biggest obstacles medical authorities face.

    “A majority of Nigerians do not believe the disease is as serious as the federal government is trying to portray,” said Ifeoluwa Asekun-Olarinmoye, a public health lecturer and epidemiologist at Babcock University in Nigeria.

    In Ivory Coast, a survey by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that two out of three Ivorians feel the threat from Covid-19 is exaggerated. More than two fifths believe the disease was planned by “foreign actors,” Africa CDC said in February. One of the world’s first countries to receive shots from the Covax initiative, Ivory Coast is barely using the doses, having inoculated only about 94,800 people, or 0.4% of its population.

    Elsewhere, the disease is seen as a scheme by the elites to profit. “When international organizations and donor countries started announcing their intention to pump in financial assistance, Cameroon announced its first case,” said Fidelis Mbawah, a post graduate student in Yaounde, the country’s capital. “This is a ploy to make money.”

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    Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon, is a country in Central Africa and West Africa.

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    The official languages of Cameroon are French and English. Its religious population consists of 70.7% Christians and 24.4% Muslims. It is governed as a Unitary presidential republic and has good relations with the major powers of France, the United Kingdom and China.

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