The Omicron Factor the Media Won't Tell You About
Added 12-04-21 05:20:03am EST - “To hear the media tell it, the emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant discovered in South Africa is a sign that "the continent was yet again bearing the brunt of panicked policies from Western countries" (New York Times).…” - Freebeacon.com
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To hear the media tell it, the emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant discovered in South Africa is a sign that "the continent was yet again bearing the brunt of panicked policies from Western countries" (New York Times). Africa was uniquely vulnerable because Western countries like the United States are "hoarding coronavirus vaccines" (CNN).
The analysis overlooks a central source of Africa's vulnerability: vaccine hesitancy among the 1.2 billion people on a continent that has long elected political leaders who preach pseudoscience on everything from the anti-retroviral drugs that can save the lives of HIV patients to the genetically modified crops that could have fed starving people during a deadly famine.
In fact, several African countries have sent back vaccines: The problem they face is one of demand, not supply. Five of the eight countries from which the Biden administration has suspended travel have pumped the brakes on new vaccine shipments, even as cases have increased, because the countries have more doses than health officials can administer.
Across the continent, vaccine hesitancy remains high. A recent survey that spans five West African countries found that 6 in 10 people were vaccine hesitant—compared with 13 percent or less in France, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe and 27 percent in the United States. Another study of six different African countries found that less than half of respondents said they would definitely or probably get the vaccine. As the World Bank notes, concerns around efficacy, safety, and side effects for the vaccine are commonplace, as is distrust in vaccines developed by Western countries. In Zimbabwe, even getting health care workers vaccinated is a challenge, and the president of the 12,000-member Zimbabwe Nurses Association points out that "the uptake of the vaccine is low among health workers."
The dominant media narrative that suggests Western governments are hoarding vaccines also overlooks the early investments by the United States and the United Kingdom to ensure their citizens had access to vaccines that helped facilitate access to vaccines. These countries invested millions of dollars to help finance the vaccines on the condition that their citizens—whose tax dollars provided the down payment—would have access. This "vaccine nationalism" helped reduce transmission and death from COVID-19 in these countries while speeding up vaccines that would eventually be rolled out across the globe.
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