VICTORIA MILKO – AP Scientific Writer
Why is the level of vaccination against COVID-19 in some countries still low?
Limited supplies remain a problem, but experts say other problems now include unpredictable supplies, weak health systems and adherence to vaccines.
Most countries with low vaccination rates are in Africa. As of the end of February, 13 African countries had fully vaccinated less than 5% of their population, said Fiona Atuhebwe, a staff member at the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa.
Other countries with extremely low levels of vaccination include Yemen, Syria, Haiti and Papua New Guinea.
For most of last year, developing countries have suffered from supply shortages. Rich countries accumulated doses, and many countries did not have the means to produce their own vaccines. COVAX – an initiative for the equitable distribution of vaccines around the world – failed with the delivery of injections.
Many rich countries have planned to donate doses after vaccinating their own populations, but the emergence of delta and amicron options pushed booster campaigns which further delayed these plans. Vaccine manufacturers have largely refused to share their formulas or technologies, further limiting production.
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There have been other failures in the field of vaccinations.
“The main problem in low-vaccination countries is the poor infrastructure for the spread of vaccinations,” said Dina Borzekowski, director of the Global Health Initiative at the University of Maryland. “What is missing is the best practices for getting vaccines for people who usually live without safely managed sewer systems or reliable electricity.”
Donated vaccines are also sometimes delivered close to the expiration date, giving health officials little time to distribute them, says Xingye Ha of Doctors Without Borders.
Some countries also do not have materials such as syringes for injections or ways to maintain vaccines at the right temperature.
Ignorance of the vaccine, fueled by misinformation and distrust of governments, has also contributed to the low proliferation of vaccines in some countries, Atuhebwe says.
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