The word pandemic, as defined by Dictionary.com means, “a disease prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world.” COVID-19 is by definition a worldwide pandemic. This means that, in order for it to be truly controlled, most of the countries in the world must achieve some level of herd immunity. Wealthy countries like the United States have large vaccine supplies. The argument here is more about safety and misinformation than access to vaccines. But, what about the rest of the world? Specifically, what about countries in Africa and the Caribbean that are predominantly Black and, sometimes, poor? The short answer is not very well.
Outside of a few notable exceptions like Morocco (26.7% population fully vaccinated), South Africa (7.7%), and Tunisia (7.1%), most African countries are less than 2% fully vaccinated. The reasons for the low vaccination rates in African countries are what can be expected when a sudden pandemic hits a nation with poor infrastructure. The numbers are compounded by the fact that the wealthy nations are hoarding and stockpiling doses. For example, the world’s richest countries will have 1.9 BILLION doses more than they need to fully vaccinate their population(s) by the end of August.
Additionally, the surge of the Delta variant in India prompted their government to impose restrictions on delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine through Covax, a global partnership created to deliver free doses to countries that needed them.
The goal was to vaccinate 20% of Africans by the end of the year. Since the restrictions slowed supply, projections have been lowered to approx. 7%. That is only 10% of what is needed to achieve herd immunity.
Recent developments may prove to have an impact on the lack of vaccinations on the continent. The U.S. is investing $200M in an Aspen Pharmacare manufacturing facility in South Africa. Aspen, the largest pharmaceutical company in Africa, produces the J&J vaccine and this investment should allow the company to expand production beyond its current rate of 300M doses per year.
J&J has promised its offering of vaccines on a not-for-profit basis. In December, the company pledged 500M doses to the aforementioned COVAX worldwide relief initiative.
Additionally, Pfizer and BioNTech revealed a manufacturing agreement with the Biovac Institute in South Africa. This should provide more than 100M doses of their vaccine by the beginning of 2022.
Here is a table of top vaccination rates in Africa.
|Total Doses Admin.
|% of Population
Notice that popular countries that have residents who frequently visit the United States like Nigeria (0.7%) and Kenya (1.1%), Somalia (0.6%), and Sierra Leone (0.2%) have rates so low that they didn’t even make the top ten. If the slow and low vaccination rates in Africa continue, it could prolong the pandemic, allow for the creation and incubation of more variants, and significantly impact the continent for generations to come.
What About the Caribbean?
Caribbean interests by people from wealthy, more vaccinated nations have seemingly had an impact on vaccination rates. Many island nation economies depend on tourism so those who work on or around the frequented resorts have increased vaccination rates. However, the islands with a large number of natives living in the United States surprisingly have low vaccination rates.
Noticeable countries missing from this list are Jamaica (4.0%), The Bahamas (10.1%), and Trinidad and Tobago (12.5%). Those countries have large numbers of natives living in large metropolitan cities in the United States (Miami, New York) who frequently visit their native countries. This could potentially have a negative impact on the fight against the COVID pandemic. In conclusion, there are approximately 5.54 BILLION people of African descent in the world. That means almost 3.88B will have to be vaccinated in order to reach the 70% required for herd immunity. In order to do this, the world will have to overcome centuries of racism, distrust, and political agendas to ensure the health and safety of all. Trusting governments and politicians isn’t something that makes any of us feel safe. But, our health and safety aren’t up to politicians or governments. It’s up to us. One vaccination at a time. (July 29, 2021 by Ellis Dean for BlackDoctor.org)