Somalilandsun: Somali NGOs warmly welcome the first batch of COVID19 vaccines this week from COVAX and warn that Somalia is facing critical shortages of oxygen and medical supplies to cope with the rising COVID-19 cases.
With current vaccine doses less than 2% of the population will receive a vaccine while in contrast rich nations have vaccinated their citizens at a rate of one person per second over the last month.
The first batch containing 300,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been distributed to various cities across Somalia. The vaccine’s arrival comes as the country struggles with a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
As WHO reported In Somalia, from 3 January 2020 to 23 March 2021, there have been 10,214 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 441 deaths, however testing capacity is low and the estimated real figures are much higher.
Under COVAX, Somalia will receive a total of 3.5 million doses, to vaccinate 20% of the population and 1.2million people can hope to be vaccinated by mid-year.
Given the weak health care infrastructure, Somali health care workers will continue to struggle to treat those who need it if vaccines do not arrive in greater quantities more quickly.
“While the government has yet to announce the detail criteria for fair distribution of the
vaccine, we urge the government to reach frontline health and humanitarian workers with preconditions as a priority as well as elderly or people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, HIV, government personnel, marginalized groups including refugees, prisoners, and people living in slums and other crowded
housing conditions,” said Halimo Elmi, Acting Director of the Somali NGO Consortium
The UN has been allocated 1,000 vaccines and NGOs want to see local field teams at the front-line of the humanitarian responses to the escalating drought crisis and conflict-related displacement prioritised.
Many of the economically developed nations rolling out vaccines quickly, including the US, UK and EU, have again blocked a proposal by over 100 developing countries, including Somalia, discussed at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the
anniversary of the pandemic last week.
This proposal would override the monopolies
held by pharmaceutical companies and allow an urgently needed scale up in the production of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to ensure poorer countries, such as Somalia, get access to the doses they desperately need.
Qualified vaccine producers worldwide stand ready to produce more vaccines if they were allowed access to the technology and know-how, which now is being held under lock and key by pharmaceutical companies.
This could bring new capacity on stream within months. “The inequality is outrageous. When rich countries and companies are not coming
together to support those who are in need and put profits before people’s health, it hurts us all. Somalis could be receiving many more doses this year if more labs were able to access the pharmaceutical blueprints,” says Amjad Ali, Country Director of Oxfam in Somalia, which is part of The Peoples’ Vaccine Alliance.
To control the virus, enough doses of vaccines need to be produced in different geographies, priced affordably, allocated globally and widely deployed for free in local communities. Thus far, the world is failing on all four fronts.
The Somali NGO Consortium is a network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
working together to improve international aid coordination and raise the presence and
profile of NGO representation within the aid coordination for Somalia.