At a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, tempers flared up among those waiting for tight AstraZeneca jabs, and some accused others of trying to skip the line.
Nurses intervened, informing them that the defendant had been waiting since the previous day and prevented violence in a tense atmosphere with Ugandans pressing for vaccinations.
After a brutal wave of infections fueled by the Delta variant, many Ugandans seeking a first dose of vaccine are competing with hundreds of thousands who have waited months for a second dose. But the country now only has 285,000 shots donated by Norway.
The delta surge has sparked a vaccination rush across Africa that the slow trickle of donated doses cannot keep up with, adding to the continent’s vaccine disadvantage compared to the rest of the world. The urgency to get a second dose in much of the world’s least vaccinated continent contrasts sharply with rich countries now starting to approve third doses.
Dr. Alfred Driwale, the top official of the Ugandan vaccination program, ruefully said the small number of doses will do little to improve the situation as the 5 million Ugandans who are eligible for vaccination – everyone from soldiers to health workers – Fighting under a first attempt for vaccinations -Come on, first serve system.
“You cannot make politics if there is no security of supply,” said Driwale.
Health officials in Africa’s 54 nations have repeatedly expressed disappointment with what they consider vaccine to be vaccine nationalism, as rich nations appear to be hoarding doses while poor countries lag far behind. In June, amid severe bottlenecks, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that vaccination campaigns in Africa had “almost come to a standstill”, underscoring the plight of the continent at a time when many countries were facing deadly surges.
Less than 2% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated and African countries have received just over 100 million doses of vaccine, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
AstraZeneca donations from countries like France are not considered large amounts to vaccinate 60% of the African population by the end of 2022, said John Nkengasong, the group’s director. He told reporters Thursday that no large shipments are expected from AstraZeneca anytime soon until the situation with an Indian manufacturer changes.
“The best vaccine that can be used as a second dose is any vaccine available,” he added, citing the example of the first dose of AstraZeneca and then the one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which was used in African countries after the Arrived on the continent, 400 million cans were bought. Uganda recently received 300,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, which authorities insist it cannot be used in combination with AstraZeneca.
In the Congo, health experts are waiting for a Sunday delivery of another second COVID-19 doses, said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who coordinates the government’s pandemic response. Since the vaccination campaign began in April, around 81,910 people have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and more than 4,000 people have returned for the second dose. AstraZeneca is sold out there.
AstraZeneca scarcity is of concern in countries that used AstraZeneca frequently, while hoping significant shipments would continue to arrive. Some health workers, teachers, and others who spoke with The Associated Press said their second dose had been due several weeks, which made them feel unsafe.
“We are told that (the Delta variant) is very deadly and we are all scared. So most of my colleagues have taken the first AstraZeneca vaccine, but we cannot do the second vaccine now, ”said Ifeoluwa Oluseyi, a teacher in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of more than 210 million people, received 4 million cans of Moderna donated by the U.S. earlier this month and is expecting more than 29 million Johnson & Johnson cans to be shipped by the government via the African Union were bought.
Oso Kowe, a Nigerian doctor who hasn’t been fully vaccinated, said she was lucky to have escaped COVID-19 while waiting for a second dose after receiving the first on May 7. Kowe, from Ekiti University Teaching Hospital state, said she tried three times to get her second dose.
“It wasn’t really my fault that I didn’t get the second dose,” she said. “So I’ll just do my best and hope for the best that I don’t get the virus.”
Dr. Misaki Wayengera, head of a technical committee advising Uganda’s pandemic response, said it was inevitable that “some will unfortunately have to wait longer” for cans.
A Ugandan teacher who was waiting for her turn at a crowded vaccination site one morning said she would not leave until she got her second vaccination, which has been due since June 2nd.
“My question is, does that first dose still work? I mean was it wasted? Do i need a third shot? There are questions in the air and nobody gives me answers, ”said Racheal Nambuya. “I’m trying my best to get this shot and as you can see I’m not the only one.”
There have been reports of fake vaccination certificates issued to people who received vaccinations outside of certain centers – and some even paid bribes to get vaccinations – adding to confusion over a vaccination campaign, which is subject to availability. And because of the logistical challenges, vaccines take even longer to reach remote locations outside of urban centers.
With some vaccination centers, which are given around 100 doses a day, the battle for vaccines can be literally physical.
“Some people almost exchanged blows here this morning,” said Robinah Wataba after receiving a second dose that had been due several days. “There was too much disorganization here. More than you can imagine.”
She was discouraged the day before when she entered Kampala City Hall and witnessed the noisy crowd.
“That second dose – everyone wants it. I was wondering, ‘What is the likelihood that I’ll be one of the people who will get it?’ “She said. “I feel sorry for those who didn’t get it, because from now on it will be even more difficult.”
Associate press writers Chinedu Asadu in Lagos, Nigeria, Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, and Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.