NAIROBI, Kenya – The nurse lay in bed this month, dizzy with cough, wheezing and fever.
Three months after wealthy countries began vaccinating health workers, but nurses like Kenyan Stella Geethaiga were left behind: employed in the country’s largest public hospital, she caught coronovirus on an outreach trip to remote communities in February . , Sidelined him even when he struggled with Kenya A vicious cycle of infection.
Ms. Githiga and her co-workers are victims of one of the most suffering inequalities in an epidemic that has been exposed: plenty in the global South, with health workers being sick and killed by a virus that many doctors in wealthy countries And nurses are now largely protected.
This is the most visible cost of a rich-poor divide that deepened in the second year of the epidemic. Approximate of vaccine doses given globally Three-fourths have visited only 10 countries. At least 30 countries have not injected a single person yet.
Scientists have long warned that such inappropriate treatment could upset not only poor countries, but also rich ones, if the continued spread of the virus allows it to mute in ways to reduce vaccines. But the greatest human cost will almost certainly be borne by less wealthy countries.
Countries including Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe have already killed unskilled doctors and nurses this year, depleting health systems that could make any more workers ill to lose and countries by variants Are threatening to reduce the level of care.
The toll in Africa can be particularly deep. 17 percent of the world’s people live in this continent, but so far it is about 2 percent Vaccine supplements are given globally.
“I don’t think we, as a country, and even as Africa, have the capacity for our own treatment,” said Hazel Miseda Mumbo, vice chancellor of Great Lakes University of Kisumu in Kenya, who has led the country. Has studied the health system of. “While these countries in the West are still scrambling for vaccines, Africa will have to wait. This can be a sad situation. “
In a worrying sign of uneven distribution, even Kenya, one of the continent’s wealthiest countries, is advancing badly.
The first million Kovid-19 vaccine doses arrived before midnight on 2 March. Then Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said that the country was “fighting this virus with rubber bullets”, but has now finally gained the metaphor of a “machine”. Guns, bazookas, and tanks. “
But that was not all in that arsenal. The dose was one month late, and a quarter of what was promised. India recently stepped in with a relatively small, but welcome move in addition to 100,000 doses. Kenya has no idea when the next batch of vaccines will actually arrive.
Even under the best of circumstances, the country is expected to vaccinate about 30 percent of its people, or about 16 million out of about 50 million by mid-2023. No one has any idea when the rest of the population will get their shots.
Initial shipments of supplements are being dug for health care workers and other essential workers.
For health workers who have been trying to manage a ten-fold increase in daily affairs since late January, the initial shots came only after the illness. Ms Geithiga saw her sickness as the news media showed health officials and fellow nurses and doctors receiving their shots.
“There was a lot of shock and concern over the past year in dealing with this virus, which was recently released after a week in the hospital,” Ms Gitaiga said. “How ironic that I was ill the day I got vaccinated. I felt abandoned. “
For wealthy countries, Kenya’s inoculation timeline is unimaginable. The months of waiting seem difficult, especially with Dangerous version of the world revolving. President Biden has promised Vaccines for all adults In the United States by the end of May. Israel Have vaccinated 60 per cent of its people and 41 per cent have been vaccinated by the UK.
Like many developing countries, Kenya relies on a global mechanism for the purchase and distribution of vaccines. Known as Kovacs. The program was built on the idea that many countries, including the rich, would use it to buy shots at vaccine manufacturers as a way to spread their bets. Instead, dozens of wealthy countries bought supplements directly from pharmaceutical companies, International effort elbow out of the way And delay in shipments to developing countries.
Nevertheless, analysts said, poorer countries are in a stronger position than they would have been without effort. Kovacs is aiming to cover at least 20 percent of the people in participating countries by the end of the year.
In Kenya, stringent restrictions – lockout, curfew, Flight suspension And the school is closed that eventually The children were forced to repeat the school year – The virus was stopped from spreading in the country last year, as it had a relatively young population.
But control measures such as lockdown available to rich and poor countries are not the best defense against coronoviruses. The most valuable currency now is vaccines, which can open a yawning gap between those who can buy them, and those who can’t.
The epidemic in Africa has deteriorated since a version first seen in South Africa, capable of strengthening people, started running cases in the southern parts of the continent.
“Earlier, it was believed that Africa had survived the epidemic,” said Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in South Africa. “Unfortunately, it was not.”
With increasing cases in Kenya, vaccine delays will cost more lives. The number of alleged Kovid-19 cases – more than 120,000 infections that have caused nearly 2,000 deaths – is believed to be a low pressure.
The country was expecting more vaccine doses from Kovacs. But its health officials also hoped that the country’s close security and trade relations with the European Union and the UK would help secure the vaccines. Kenya also ignored the concerns of other countries About being used as “guinea pigs” and participated in vaccine trials, raising expectations of earlier shipments.
“Vaccines were imposed as a result of clinical trials,” postdoctoral researcher of global health law at Cardiff University, Drs. Said David Nagira, who monitors the vaccine rollout in Africa. “And on this basis, Kenyan participants, as well as surrounding communities and the country at large, should be given some priority in vaccine access.”
But this has not happened. Even Kenya’s low expectations have been regained: by May Kovacs had been promised a 4.1 million dose that was cut by 3.6 million doses. The country has ordered a total of 24 million doses.
Health officials say they are grateful, but even Kovacs shots come with a hitch. Vaccines covering the first 20 percent of Kenya’s population were free, but only on the basis that the government pays a substantial dose to cover 10 percent of its population.
For Kenya, that bill is expected to run close to the $ 130 million budget.
An African Union vaccine task force is trying to lighten the burden by helping countries use sufficient amounts to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by mid-2022.
Vaccine delays are likely to cause far more economic catastrophe than countries that are low on dosage. In the most serious scenario imaginable by a group of researchers, with poorer countries largely shut off from the vaccine this year, The global economy could lose more than $ 9 trillionAlmost half of which will fall on rich countries like Britain, Canada and the United States.
In Africa, however, the cost of slow rollout for people and health systems is already increasing.
In late January, A. Cardiologist in Zimbabwe – a patron for young doctors and a pillar of the country’s health system – was killed by Kovid-19. In the same month, a senior doctor in Northern Nigeria Died of virusIs limited to an isolation center.
Kenya’s health system had already fallen prey to mistreatment of doctors and nurses. Many health workers are given unpaid and often inadequate protective equipment in some cases for months, Quit the job, Forcing some hospitals to go months without nurses. One had to shut down the Kovid-19 isolation unit and send patients home. The 28-year-old doctor died of Kovid-19 in December after working without pay for months.
“This is an ethical emergency for the protection of health workers worldwide,” said Gavin Yami, Associate Director of Policy at Duke Global Health Institute. “Illness and death of health workers in the system that are already vulnerable may further exacerbate those problems.”
For Nachaira Muthiga, a public hospital doctor who worked in the Kovid-19 ward of Nairobi last year, the arrival of the first vaccines from Kenya breathed a sigh of relief. But the crushing experiences of the past year have made him wary.
Before contracting the disease herself, she lost several patients. The substandard protective device made her vulnerable, she said. And the news of corruption, which betrayed the hospitals of much needed money, he said, broke something in it.
Although she received the vaccine last week, she worries that the health system is facing the same problems – with vaccine hoardings by wealthy countries, as well as the reach of general kinens that the shots may be kept longer.
“I’m still hopeful,” he said, “that the health of our citizens will be a high priority at some point.”
Abdi Latif Dahir Reported from Nairobi and Benjamin muller From london.