When Amanda Wood, a mother of three, learned that hundreds of coronavirus vaccines were available to teens in Toronto, one thing stopped her from rushing to the vaccination site at a local high school: Her 13-year-old daughter was injections are scary.
Wood then told Lola: if you get vaccinated, you can see your friends again, you can play sports. Tempted by the promise of regaining a normal teenage life, Lola accepted.
In Zimbabwe, a world away from Canada -more than 13,000 kilometers-, the challenges go much further in the fight to achieve herd immunity.
Andrew Ngwenya was recently sitting outside his home in a working-class township in Harare, the capital of this African country, reflecting on how he and his family could be saved from Covid-19.
Ngwenya and his wife, De-egma, had gone to a hospital that sometimes had doses to spare. Hours later, fewer than 30 people had been inoculated. The Ngwenya, parents of four children, returned home, desperate to get vaccinated.
“We are willing to receive it, but we cannot have access to it,” said the man. “We need it, where can we get it?”
The faces of inequity
The stories of the Wood and Ngwenya families reflect a world totally inequitable, divided between those who have vaccines and those who do not, between those who can imagine a world beyond the pandemic and those who can only anticipate months and perhaps years of illness and death.
In one country, initial stumbling blocks in the fight against Covid-19 were overcome thanks to money and a strong public health infrastructure.
In the other, poor planning, lack of resources and failure of a global mechanism The intention was to share the few doses available caused a desperate shortage of vaccines against Covid-19, as well as oxygen tanks and protective equipment.
With 70% of your adult population with at least one dose of the vaccine against coronavirus, Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and now it continues with the immunization of minors, who have a much lower risk of having complications and dying from the covid.
In contrast, in Zimbabwe, only 9% of the population received a dose of vaccines as the disease progresses. delta variant of the most contagious coronavirus, which was first detected in India.
Several million people vulnerable to Covid-19, including older adults and those with underlying medical problems, face problems being immunized as public officials implement more restrictive measures.
Ngwenya said the crowd of people trying to get vaccinated is daunting. “The line is about 5 kilometers long. Even if you are interested in getting vaccinated, you can’t bear that. Once you see the line you don’t try again,” he said.
In Canada, covid vaccines were not always abundant. Without a national production of this serum, the country started slow, with a vaccination rate lagging behind those of Hungary, Greece and Chile.
Canada was also the only G7 country to secure vaccines in the first round of COVAX deliveries, the UN-backed effort to distribute doses primarily to poor countries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s intention was always to secure vaccines through COVAX, after investing more than $ 400 million in the project.
The Gavi vaccine alliance said COVAX also intended to provide rich countries with an “insurance policy” in case they did not have enough doses.
The most recent shipment of COVAX to Canada – roughly 655,000 vaccines from AstraZeneca – arrived in May, shortly after some 60 countries were sidelined when supplies from the initiative were cut to a minimum.
Bangladesh, for example, had been waiting for a COVAX delivery of approximately 130,000 vaccines for its Rohingya refugee population; the doses never came after the Indian supplier stopped exporting them.
Criticism for the agreement with COVAX
Canada’s decision to secure vaccines through the UN-backed effort was “morally reprehensible,” criticized Dr. Prahbat Jha, president of global health and epidemiology at the University of Toronto.
He said Canada’s first response to Covid-19 miscalculated the need for control measures, including aggressive contact tracing and border restrictions.
“If it weren’t for Canada’s purchasing power to procure vaccines, we would be in bad shape right now,” he said.
Weeks after the COVAX vaccines arrived, more than 33,000 doses were still in warehouses in Ottawa after health officials advised Canadians to better opt for Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, of which they bought hundreds of millions. dose.
The Wood children received the Pfizer vaccine. When Canada began immunizing children aged 12 and over, Wood – who works with boys in the entertainment sector – and her architect husband did not hesitate.
Wood said his sons, who are avid athletes, hadn’t been able to play much hockey, soccer or rugby during the lockdowns.
Lola missed baking lemon bread and chocolate chip cookies with her grandmother, who lives just three blocks away.
“We felt we had to do our part to keep everyone safe, to keep older adults safe and for the economy to resume and children to go back to school,” he said.
Far from back to normal
In Zimbabwe, there is no expectation of a soon return to normalcy and the situation is likely to get worse first. Ngwenya is concerned about the government’s threats to ban public services to unvaccinated people, including transportation.
Although Zimbabwe was assigned nearly a million Covid-19 vaccines through COVAX, none were delivered. Their mix of purchased and donated doses – 4.2 million – is made up of Chinese, Russian and Indian-made vaccines.
Official figures show that 4% of the 15 million inhabitants of the country are currently fully vaccinated.
And yet the numbers make Zimbabwe a relative success story in Africa, where less than 2% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people are now fully immunized, according to the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, the virus spreads to rural areas, where the majority live, and health facilities are poor.
Ngwenya, a part-time pastor at a Pentecostal church, said he and his parishioners turn to faith to fight the coronavirus, but admitted that many people would prefer to get vaccinated first and then pray.
“All men are afraid of death,” he noted. “People die and we see people die. This is real,” he concluded.