People in low and middle-income countries faced ‘systemic racism’ in the global Covid-19 response, leaving millions without access to vaccines, tests and treatments, a significant report revealed on Friday.
Researchers studying communities in 14 low and middle-income countries and territories found that a combination of undersupply of vaccines and treatments, underfunding of health systems, undervaluing of health workers, and poor adaptation to local needs were the key drivers behind low vaccination rates.
Moreover, unpaid community health workers have been compared to “modern day slavery”, according to the study from global health consultancy firm Matahari Global Solutions, the People’s Vaccine Alliance, and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC).
The report contradicts the repeated allegations from pharmaceutical companies and wealthy country leaders that people in lower-income countries are “vaccine hesitant”; an accusation again levelled by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at a recent public event.
“Throughout this pandemic, low vaccination rates in lower-income countries have been conveniently dismissed as the result of ‘vaccine hesitancy’. Our report finds this allegation to be false,” said Dr Fifa A. Rahman, Principal Consultant, Matahari Global Solutions.
People face a litany of barriers to accessing vaccines and treatments — from undersupply of vaccines and treatments, to underfunding of health systems, and poor adaptation to local needs.
“These are issues of equity,” Rahman added.
The global health researchers studied access to Covid-19 tools across Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Jamaica, Liberia, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Somalia, Somaliland, Uganda and Ukraine.
“Testing and vaccination sites have been inaccessible, meaning true infection and death rates are likely to be far higher than official figures,” the report found.
“Vaccines have been delivered inconsistently and in insufficient numbers, leading to stock fluctuations at vaccination sites. Doses can arrive with little or no notice or information about what kind of vaccine will be delivered or whether they are suitable to conditions in a country,” it added.
Access to antiviral treatments was nonexistent in most countries surveyed.
“This report shows that communities have repeatedly been let down by a system geared towards protecting people in wealthy countries. People in the global south have been abandoned. Their lives have been treated as an afterthought,” said Maaza Seyoum, Global South Convenor of the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
The report said that oxygen supply planning and financing has been poor and essential community health workers often go unpaid.
“Governments, pharmaceutical companies (including domestic manufacturers) and international agencies must meaningfully address the real issues that prevent people from accessing vaccines and treatments,” said Nadia Rafif, ITPC Advocacy and Influence lead.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline)