The African Union (AU) recently procured 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a giant stride towards inoculating more than one billion people on the continent. The current AU chairman and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced the news on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
However, the senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nicaise Ndembi, said the procured vaccines are independent of the worldwide COVAX effort to make sure low-income countries get COVID-19 vaccines. The news is soothing, especially with the rise of COVID-19 infections due to the second wave. In South Africa, a new strain of the virus is fingered for the infection spikes.
The Difficulty in Getting COVID-19 Vaccine
Richer nations are buying up the COVID-19 vaccines. However, Ndembi noted that the AU plans to have nearly 300 million doses by the end of the first quarter of 2021. According to him, the doses will be allocated by the continental platform created last year by the AU for the 54 African countries to pool their purchasing power to buy the vaccines. Explaining the proactive move by the AU, Ndembi said,
“We’re expecting 600 million doses from the COVAX facility, but African officials are still waiting on the details, so “we’re happy we have alternative solutions.”
In an effort to vaccinate at least 60 percent of Africa’s population (780 million people), the AU has approached about 10 different vaccine manufacturers. The African CDC stated that it needs 1.5 billion doses to reach the desired milestone, assuming two doses per person. The continent would also need at least $10 million to vaccinate almost the entire population.
The Conspiracy Theories
Long before the discovery of the COVID-19 vaccine, there were conspiracy theories already circulating in Africa. One of them was that Bill Gates wants to control humanity with the use of microchip implants. Many believed the Microsoft co-founder would profit massively from the COVID-19 vaccine.
A Facebook post written in French on March 27, 2020, warned Africans not to take the COVID-19 vaccines created by Bill Gates. The warning written by a French Doctor, Didier Raoult said the West created the vaccines to wipe out Africans. Part of the English translation of the message read,
“I call on Africans not to take the vaccine that will soon be sold against the Coronavirus. This vaccine contains poison and the West wants to destroy Africa.”
The story went viral. Subsequently, a lot of Twitter users began making reference to Raoult’s statements. For instance, a Twitter Account @AdvoBarryRoux (by a South African) referenced countries that need the COVID-19 vaccines more than Africa. The ensuing reaction was massive.
Will Africans Take The COVID-19 Vaccine?
A survey conducted between August and December 2020 by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), has revealed that 79 percent of respondents in Africa will take a COVID-19 vaccine if it is safe to use and effective. The survey interviewed more than 10,000 African adults across 15 countries on the continent. This includes Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Gabon, and Kenya. Others are Malawi, Morocco, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, and DR Congo.
The survey also classifies the willingness to take the vaccine by country. The results show Ethiopians are 94 percent ready while it is 93 percent for Nigerians. Among the lowest are Senegal (65 percent) and DR. Congo (59 percent). We asked a similar question, see how our readers voted below.
Africa has low reported cases of COVID-19. However, experts argue that it may be due to low testing. South Africa is the most affected country on the continent with over a million cases. Like other parts of the world, Africa hopes to get as many COVID-19 vaccine doses as possible. However, with the massive demand for the vaccines, that hope lies in the balance.