Sunday, November 28, 2021
HomeCOVID-19Don’t poor countries have enough problems without getting our leftover Covid vaccines?

Don’t poor countries have enough problems without getting our leftover Covid vaccines?

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WE HAVE been hearing about plans to send Covid vaccines to developing countries almost since there have been Covid vaccines around. A do-gooder petition to the UK government to that effect which closed in July this year gathered a paltry 2,000 signatures, so it seems that this may not be a priority of the British people about how their money is spent. 

Nevertheless Boris Johnson, fuelled by Rishi Sunak’s inflationary money printing Budget is, pressing on with plans to send 20million doses of the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine (the brand suspended by a number of European countries last spring) mainly to Africa, a continent far less affected by the disease than Europe or the US, at our expense. 

Many will bask in a feeling of vicarious generosity. I ask instead, do these poor countries not have enough problems? Without burdening them with a vaccine that is no longer recommended for the under-55s in a series of countries and in the UK not for the under-30s? A vaccine, what’s more, which has not been tested by the usual methods, is of dubious and very short-lived efficacy, and which has demonstrable lethality in some people. This is apart from the strong possibility that the vaccine itself may be making it easier for the virus to spread with rates of illness in the vaccinated double the rate in the unvaccinated; something our government does not want us to know.

The media and public have tended to be very impressed by reported Covid deaths in some developing countries, confronted by the enormous numbers that eclipse ours. But these deaths are rarely seen as a proportion of the population, as it was in relation to India a few months ago.

If the death rate in India – at the time of reporting – was the same as in the UK, they would have been witnessing 50,000 deaths there daily. Yet it was nothing like that; in fact fatalities in India were at a much lower order of magnitude than at the peak of the pandemic in the UK. In any case, comparing a country with 1.366billion population with the 66.65million population of the UK and where there are only 0.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people compared with 2.5 per 1,000 in the UK is futile.

The same applies to Africa with a 1.341billion population. Most African countries, even the better developed ones such as Nigeria, have well below one hospital bed per 1,000 people (Niger and Senegal have 0.4 and 0.3 respectively). Levels of poverty, malnutrition and overcrowding are legendary. 

It is true that the Covid vaccines may have some short-term benefit for the vulnerable in these populations, but given the recent evidence that the efficacy of the vaccines wears off, imagine the effect this could have on populations where general health and levels of immunity are already severely compromised.

Furthermore, if we suspend belief temporarily and accept that Covid vaccines are effective, safe and of sustained benefit, to whom do our vaccine-obsessed PM and his health apparatchiks think the vaccines will go in Africa? There is not a single African country that is not ranked over 100 in the Corruption Perceptions Index. African politicians are notorious for diverting overseas aid to fuel their high-performance cars and to furnish their mansions. If there is anything to be gained by grafting the Covid vaccine supplies, regardless of their efficacy, we can be sure that Africa is the place where this is most likely to happen.

Despite copious evidence to the contrary, the British Government appear still to be under the delusion that we can control Covid at a population level. They locked us down, socially distanced us, masked us and have vaccinated vast swathes of us. Yet Covid persists. 

Sending Covid vaccines to Africa where, despite persistent poverty and disease it seems their natural immunity is prevailing, is not the solution to any of their problems. Wouldn’t the better ‘aid’ be to help Africans improve their natural resilience and immunity – as it might be for us, too? Or is Mr Johnson just trying to offload redundant bulk-purchased vaccines that he can no longer use and gain some beneficence Brownie points at the same time?

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Roger Watson
Roger Watson is a Professor of Nursing.

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