How HIV/Aids History Can Help Africa in Grip of Covid-19 3rd Wave

As the World Health Organization warns that Africa's Covid-19 third wave "is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder", an expert in global health care inequities has some shocking statistics to share. Professor Maria De Jesus says it is estimated that about 70% of the world's 7.9 billion people must be fully vaccinated to end the pandemic.

But, as of June 21, 2021, 10.04% of the global population had been fully vaccinated, nearly all of them in rich countries. Only 0.9% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, she says, noting that countries representing just one-seventh of the world's population had reserved more than half of all vaccines available by June 2021.

That has made it very difficult for the remaining countries to procure doses, a story that is familiar from the HIV era. "In the 1990s, the development of effective antiretroviral drugs for HIV/Aids saved millions of lives in high-income countries. However, about 90% of the global poor who were living with HIV had no access to these lifesaving drugs." It took over a decade after the development of antiretrovirals, and millions of unnecessary deaths, for rich countries to make those lifesaving medicines universally available.

Professor De Jesus says there are three lessons to be learned: access to Covid-19 vaccines must be prioritised on the global political agenda; wealthy nations need to work with other countries to build their vaccine manufacturing infrastructure; and poorer countries need more money to fund their public health systems and purchase vaccines.

Zimbabweans line up for Covid-19 vaccination jabs at Harare Central Hospital, June 24, 2021.


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