Calls for a Covid-19 vaccine for Africans made by Africans are increasingly becoming widespread across the continent and the globe.
Last week, South Africa’s Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize said his country had temporarily stopped the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine that was due to be rolled out later this month after a study revealed the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant of the coronavirus known as 501Y.V2.
South Africa has the highest number of infections on the continent and is the 15th most affected country in the world.
As at February 13, Zimbabwe had recorded 35 104 cases and 1 398 deaths and 30 089 recoveries.
Commendably, both countries have made headways in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines with South African having procured AstraZeneca from India.
South Africa’s vaccine roll out plan which targeted 67 percent of its population had been estimated to cost R20.6 billion (US$1.4 billion).
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Government has secured US$100 million for purchasing Covid-19 vaccines.
In the midst of the African scramble for outside vaccines is one African giant, Tanzania, whose President John Magufuli is at the centre of criticism for downplaying the Covid-19 situation in Tanzania.
Since the first outbreak, President Magufuli never implemented a national lockdown or curfew, instead his people roam freely as zebras in the African wild savannah, oblivious of the danger lurking in the air. With no 100 percent Covid-19 busting vaccine, people have come up with a host of clinical and traditional home made remedies to combat the scourge, some plausible some questionable.
While steaming/kunatira with herbs such as Zumbani, vicks and other remedies have been celebrated as helpful in the fight against the virus, last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned people against steaming arguing that it could burn the airways and cause more harmful problems worse than the virus.
What worries many is that, while Europe and the rest of the world are scrambling to find a vaccine for Covid-19, Africa is scrambling to gather funds to procure foreign made vaccines.
There is absolutely nothing wrong getting help from a friend or neighbour to save your family, but what if your neighbour is the witch who has been tormenting the souls of your unmarried daughters for years?
The above concern has also been raised by Professor Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara, former President of the MDC faction in 2006 and former Deputy Prime Minister in the Government of National Unity (GNU) now full time Visiting Professor, University of Johannesburg- who opined how “an entire African continent fails to produce a single Covid-19 vaccine”. In his lamentation, Mutambara accuses how Big Pharma, Western governments and WHO of failing to promote basic and inexpensive solutions.
Instead, he accuses Big Pharma practice of creating complicated patent remedies for profit through disease management and not eradication.
In Mutambara’s thinking, it is very possible for a cure or vaccine that would totally annihilate Covid-19 to be produced, however, Big Pharma driven by the profit motive would rather manage and not solve the problem.
Where is Africa in all this equation? Of course Africa, my poor brothers and sisters are the consumers if not other things worse, such as testing grounds for medical research and the like.
Mutambara defiantly complains how the history and experience of vaccines such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in Africa has been adverse. That black people have historically been victims of vaccine linked shenanigans and some medical genocide for Mutambara, is a reason for vaccine-related conspiracy theories and a wake up call for Africans to come up with their own vaccines!
A vaccine for Africa by Africans is therefore urgent. It is not enough to celebrate that an African doctor or professor is part of a team manufacturing Pfizer or other vaccines. The benefits of an African vaccine are plenty.
It would allay all conspiracy theories and be received with open arms. It would give Africa, agency and reclaim its position as “mother of all continents”, the genesis of knowledge!