vaccines President Ramaphosa received his Covid-19 jab on 17 February 2021

Delayed vaccines, fear of side effects, corruption, perturbs Africans

By Hassan Isilow, Anadolu AgencyDelayed

Many Africans have expressed skepticism about whether their governments will be transparent enough in administering Covid-19 mass vaccination campaigns or corrupt officials could profit from the exercise. Others think vaccines are aimed at controlling the population and could affect fertility. “I want to be vaccinated but I have heard people saying it could make one sterile yet I still want to have children. So I am scared,” Marian Abdi, 26, a mother of two told Anadolu Agency in Johannesburg. Otuko Franklin Sam, a development economist based in Uganda, told the Turkish news agency: “The African line of thought regarding the Covid-19 vaccine is largely skeptical. Many believe there are hidden agendas behind it. But for those who’ve lost loved ones, it’s something that is better than nothing because the pandemic is real.” Abdikani Hassan, a resident of Pretoria said, “The vaccine is probably the only way to contain this deadly virus.’’ He added: “We should counter conspiracy theories of the anti-vaccine campaigns.”

Delayed vaccines Iqbal Jassat an executive at the Johannesburg-based advocacy group, Media Review Network, told Anadolu Agency he was concerned like any other citizen why there was a late response by the government to secure vaccines. Jassat said the delay appears to be playing out across the continent, which again raises doubts about the quality of political leadership and lack of decisive planning. He said the delayed arrival in some African countries could regrettably add to the number of people requiring urgent medical care. In late January, vaccinologist professor Shabir Madhi said the delay in South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccination program could lead to a third wave of infections. The country is currently battling a second wave and is also faced with a new variant spreading faster than before which has forced several countries, including Turkey, to stop flights to South Africa. The country has the highest number of Covid-19 infections on the continent with 1.4 million and 46,180 deaths.

It is also the 15th most affected country in the world South African publication, The Sunday Times, said Madhi contended that the government was late to the game in acquiring the vaccine and warned that another wave could resurface within three to four months. Africa’s most developed economy managed to receive its first consignment of one million doses February. 1. It acquired the drugs from the Serum Institute in India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. President Cyril Ramaphosa said front line health workers would be vaccinated in the first phase. He said in the second phase, essential workers, those older than 60, and residents with co-morbidities, as well as those living in nursing homes and hostels would be inoculated. A week before the arrival, Ramaphosa said his country could not get the vaccine straightaway due to an unprecedented global demand for doses, and the far greater buying power of wealthier countries. “We had to engage in extensive and protracted negotiations with manufacturers to secure enough vaccines to reach South Africa’s adult population,” said Ramaphosa.

Corruption However, some Africans are expressing concern that government officials could profit from the vaccination program like it was previously reported in many countries on the continent where companies and government officials wrongly benefited from inflated supply tenders for protective equipment or food supply. “I see another chance for our corrupt government officials to make money through vaccinations,” Ugandan-based public intellectualSaraha Akello told Anadolu Agency. Akello cited the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization fund (GAVI), which was embezzled by Ugandan officials in the early 2000s. “Let’s not forget that even the testing of Covid-19 is being overcharged,” she said. “I think the idea of a vaccine is great. But I worry because our leaders will either steal the money meant for the vaccine or sell it at very high prices that a common person may not afford,’’ Princess Maxentia a resident of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, told Anadolu Agency. “Whether the vaccine is administered to all or up to 70% of the population is another question all together.

How much of the vaccine will be stolen and sold?’’ Cape Town resident Riyaaz Ismail asked. For his part, Ahmed Isma, a resident of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said, “The idea of the vaccine is great but only those who can pay for it will access it first.’’ “I don’t think front health workers will be a priority for most African countries as the few who are close to the government, including politicians, will be favored,’’ he said. “I don’t think front health workers will be a priority for most African countries as the few who are close to the government,including politicians, will be favored,’’ he said. However, most governments on the continent have said the vaccine will be free of charge and administered in phases. It will be the first time that “governments on the continent will be tested on service delivery, how organized will they be in making sure every citizen is vaccinated,’’ said Isma, who added that logistically, it will be a tough call.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, another country badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, announced February 2 that his government finally secured doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to help immunize “as many citizens as possible.” Chakwera said the first consignment of the vaccine will arrive at the end of February for rollout in March. But on the streets of Blantyre, the commercial city, the news was not warmly welcomed as some do not have trust in the vaccine. “I will not take it or accept if the government brings it here,” Dan Mandala, a second-hand school bag vendor told Anadolu Agency”. There is a lot of rumours about the vaccine, so until such time authorities have confidence in it, I will not accept the vaccine.” Maria Mhango a trader in the Blantyre Market said given a chance, she will be the first in line to receive the vaccine. “We have lost so many influential people due to Covid-19. If the vaccine is in the country and everyone is asked to take it, I will gladly be the first to take it,” she said. Mhango said every day she leaves her house for the heavily congested and busy city market. She feels like she is putting her entire family at risk. “We need the vaccine like yesterday,” she said. Among others, the country has lost five lawmakers and two Cabinet ministers to the pandemic.

Moses Michael-Phiri contributed to this story from Blantyre in Malawi.