Global vaccine disparity gets sharper: lines in Kenya, few takers in US
Plans for COVID-19 booster shots in the US and some Western countries are highlighting vast disparities in access to vaccines around the world.
In richer countries, people can often pick and choose from multiple available vaccines, walk into a site near their homes and get a shot in minutes, the Associated Press said in a report.
Pop-up clinics in cities across the US bring vaccines into rural areas and urban neighborhoods, but it is common for them to get very few takers, the AP report said,
Several hundred people line up every morning, starting before dawn, on a grassy area outside Nairobi’s largest hospital hoping to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Sometimes the line moves smoothly, while on other days, the staff tells them there’s nothing available, and they should come back tomorrow.
Halfway around the world, at a church in Atlanta, two workers with plenty of vaccine doses waited hours Wednesday for anyone to show up, whiling away the time by listening to music from a laptop. Over a six-hour period, only one person came through the door.
In the developing world, supply is limited and uncertain. Just over 3% of people across Africa have been fully vaccinated, and health officials and citizens often have little idea what will be available from one day to the next.
More vaccines have been flowing in recent weeks, but the World Health Organization’s director in Africa said Thursday that the continent will get 25% fewer doses than anticipated by the end of the year, in part because of the rollout of booster shots in wealthier counties such as the United States.
The disparity comes as the U.S. is moving closer to offering booster shots to large segments of the population even as it struggles to persuade Americans to get vaccinated in the first place.
The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recently urged rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines should hold off on offering booster shots through the end of the year and make the doses available to poorer countries.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters last week that “we have not seen enough science” to drive decisions on when to administer booster shots.