PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — The government of South Africa announced on December 17, 2021, that it will donate more than 2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. Health officials will distribute the vaccines among various African countries. The doses are necessary on the under-vaccinated African continent where the goal of a 70% vaccination rate may not occur until 2024. Here is some information about South Africa’s vaccine donations.
South Africa’s Vaccine Donations
The South African government will donate approximately $18 million worth of vaccines to its neighbors on the African continent. Production of the vaccines will take place at the Aspen Pharmacare manufacturing facility in Gqeberha according to a statement from the South African government.
With South Africa’s most recent announcement, the total amount of vaccines donated to the African Union’s African Vaccination Acquisition Trust equates to more than 100 million vaccines plus another 500 million vaccine doses that the union has purchased to distribute across the continent.
Currently, Africa is the least vaccinated continent in the world while the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Africa will not reach a 70% vaccination target until late 2024. Out of the 54 nations in Africa, only 20 of them have vaccinated 10% of their populations while another 10 countries have vaccinated less than 2% of their populations.
About Omicron in South Africa
In the country of South Africa, the Omicron variant is raging through the country and recorded more than 24,000 new cases and 36 deaths in one day. The seven-day average in South Africa rose from 8.59 cases per 100,000 on December 2, 2021, to 39.11 cases per 100,000 on December 16, 2021.
Of the new cases, more than 78% of them are a resultant of the Omicron variant according to the South African Health Minister, Joe Phaahla. Health experts say that Omicron is more likely to result in mild cases compared to the earlier waves and their variants. Scientists say that data suggests the Pfizer vaccine supplies less protection from Omicron and reduced protection from hospitalization.
Luckily, the country has an estimated 19 million vaccines and is one of the reasons why it is able to donate 2 million of them to other countries. However, even with the surplus of vaccines only about 15 million South Africans equal to about 38% of the adult population are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Southern Africa Travel Ban
In the wake of the Omicron variant and the recent uptick in infections in previous weeks, numerous nations around the world have imposed travel bans against nations in southern Africa. Joe Biden and the United States imposed a travel ban on eight African nations in late November 2021 because of the Omicron variant in the United States with the hope of limiting the spread of the virus.
The Omicron variant was originally detected in South Africa along with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. New restrictions against these countries occurred very shortly after the U.S. dropped its ban against many other countries because of decreased COVID-19 cases.
Now, with pressure from WHO which argues that the travel ban will discourage countries from revealing true COVID-19 numbers while also saying that the ban will do little to slow the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 Effect on Children
A recent study that the Vatican published on December 22, 2021, proved that the pandemic led to increased levels of violence, abuse, child labor, lost schooling and malnutrition. The Vatican’s development office and the Pontifical Academy of Life published the reports.
The report estimated that more than 5 million children lost a parent or caregiver to the pandemic. This is also leading to increased numbers of children in poverty totaling 160 million. Food insecurity caused an increase of 6 million and 7 million new cases of malnutrition in children under 5-years-old while leading to 10,000 deaths a month in 2020 of which more than 80% were in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
A major factor in child malnutrition was the loss of school meals which accounted for 39 billion meals. The report also states that 10 million children may never return to school because of COVID-19 with a significant impact on the global south.
Child marriages also increased because of financial pressures on families. In response to the report, the pope has requested that there be more government spending on children, more equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and keeping schools open as much as possible
Vaccine distribution disproportionately affects those living in poverty especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where poverty rates are high and vaccination rates are low. Vaccines are essential to protect all age groups. Unfortunately, poverty greatly affects children and their access to services including vaccination. As a result, South Africa’s vaccine donations are incredibly important.
– Julian Smith
Photo: Wikipedia Commons