Written by Sifelani Tsiko

Published on 24th February 2021

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli. Covid? What covid? Photo: Facebook

Covid-19 Hegemony: African countries are not looking to their home-grown manufacturing capacity and solutions to fight the pandemic. The donor-and-dependency syndrome is back. African countries are all looking to the US, UK, European Union, China, Russia, and India for vaccines. These major and emerging powers are embroiled in a fierce race to supply vaccines and healthcare equipment to Africa, in the process raking in billions of dollars, and political influence for themselves. 

Land, minerals, crops, and a whole range of products are being syphoned for a song by the powerful countries. The pandemic has yet again provided big pharma and the major powers a new fertile ground to extend their power and influence. African countries need to take practical steps to invest in research for drug development and manufacture as well as the development of their own capacity to create the necessary instruments for the manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics, medicines, and other essential equipment to guarantee the survival of their population. Most universities and research institutions here in Africa can produce ventilators, masks, testing equipment and drugs, but there is no political will and support to reduce dependence on other countries.

Vaccination Rollouts: As national vaccination programs for Covid-19 in Africa gather pace in the midst of a global rush, there is a whole lot of potential threats to the uptake of the drugs on this continent of more than 1.3 billion people. Many African countries are taking bold steps to acquire vaccines and ensure that they save lives and treat the most vulnerable. The continent has more than 3.83 million confirmed cases and deaths are now more than 101, 350 mark in the coming few days.

A number of countries including Guinea, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and several others are now moving to roll out vaccination programs. The continent is driving to have at least 60% of its 1.3 billion people vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to achieve continent-wide herd immunity.

On February 14, Rwanda kicked off the national vaccination program for Covid-19, starting with health care staff as part of the high-risk groups. The country was rolling out the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) which were acquired through international partnerships. Health officials in that country say the national vaccination program will be done in phases, with the first one targeting to go to frontline workers in healthcare including but not limited to those working in treatment centers and Intensive Care Units (ICUs). 

In addition, this phase will also be rolled out to people older than 65 and those whose immunity is weak and have underlying conditions such as cancer, diabetes, HIV and other serious diseases. Furthermore, other vulnerable groups such as correctional facility inmates, people in refugee and security personnel – at risk of the virus will be considered.

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