EDITORIAL | Somalia may pay the price for not moving early on Covid-19 vaccines
EDITORIAL | Somalia was on Thursday joining other member states of the UN to celebrate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But this year’s celebrations of the Human Rights Day coincided with calls for resilience and bouncing back better after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Like all other countries in the world, Somalia has faced the whip of the pandemic in all its sectors, admitted James Swan, the UN Secretary-General’s representative to Somalia. This is why it is curious that Somalia leaders have hardly explained whether they plan to purchase any of the vaccines being prepared for the market.
Ever since the pandemic began, Somalia has shown an impressive fight against the pandemic. Despite recording 4579 cases, 3529 of them have recovered and gone back to normal life, but 121 others have died. Compared to other developed countries, it is obvious that the Covid-19 pandemic has not been as tragic in Somalia in spite of the country’s fragile healthcare system.
It would be foolhardy, however, for any policymakers in Somalia to think the battle against Covid-19 will be won, regardless of whether the country takes part in vaccine purchases or even research.
By Thursday evening, the US Federal Drugs Authority was determining whether to grant an emergency approval to a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech which will mean an urgent administration to the US public. The UK already began issuing the vaccine.
Vaccine production, access, distribution cost has already combined to lock out many countries as the rich compete for the available doses. In fact, a grim estimate floated in various fora last week showed that all the 2 billion doses on the market this far have already been purchased, meaning other countries like Somalia may have to wait up to 2022 to get theirs.
For countries in Africa, it has been worse especially since storage and distribution facilities are still bone-poor. The Pfizer vaccine, for example, may not be utilized in Africa because the storage requires temperatures as low as -70°C.
It means that Africa may have to look at what Oxford University-AstraZeneca, the Chinese, Russians, or even Germans are doing in their labs.
Our concern for Somalia is in the fact that there seems to be little attention given to vaccines. We understand that the political temperatures in the country have risen over the recent months. But there can never be an excuse for leaving a matter of strategic importance to the political fate.
Neighboring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia have had their national carriers announce elaborate plans to ferry the delicate vaccines to places they fly. Ethiopian Airlines flies to Mogadishu. It would be interesting to see if there is the intention to tap into their new facilities and bring in crucial jabs.
Kenya is currently taking part in trials for the Oxford University-AstraZeneca, whose initial tests showed a 70 percent efficacy rate which rises with an increase in dosage to half.
But then several other African countries like Somalia have infuriated the WHO by showing no concern to ready their grounds for vaccine use.
Somalia should have learned lessons from past health regulations. Foreign countries still place on Somali travelers an inconveniencing demand of health certifications to be met, including valid yellow fever certificates.
If the world were to move and demand a covid-19 vaccination certificate, Somalia will surely be another problematic situation burdening its people.
There is little to do to force other countries to lessen travel conditions for Somalis. But at least government officials must show interest to have vaccines made available to those who can afford to take jabs.