WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (56) recently made the rich world responsible. Booster vaccinations for healthy people should be stopped immediately because poorer countries are still waiting for the first vaccine doses. Boosters, Tedros was indignant, was “a scandal that must stop now”.
The WHO chief thought in advance of Africa, which lags far behind the rest of the world in terms of vaccinations. But apparently the fears of the WHO and international epidemiologists do not arise that the coronavirus would rage uncontrollably on the African continent.
Africa special case
A look at the map shows that large parts of Africa are still waiting for first doses. But new infections and deaths are low in a global comparison. Are corona vaccines not needed so urgently in Africa?
Another look at a hotspot map from Johns Hopkins University clearly shows where the pandemic is currently concentrated. Africa only has small red dots.
Some will argue that these numbers are misleading. Less testing is being done in Africa and resources on the continent are limited to detect the virus. Africa’s test infrastructure is in fact not as well developed as in the western world, which means that numerous symptom-free locations are not discovered.
The lower average age on the continent is cited as one of the reasons for Africa’s increased resistance to the virus. Covid deaths affect – but not without exception – older people in advance. The average age in North and South America, Europe and Asia is between 32 and 42.5 years. The demographic age structure in sub-Saharan Africa is much younger – the average age is 18 years.
Pre-existing illnesses and immune protection
Especially since previous illnesses increase the risk profile of Covid patients, Africa also has better maps in this regard. Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and being very overweight, which have been shown to increase the risk of corona death, are less common in Africa.
“The global Sars-CoV-2 outbreak has clearly shown that noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes are known risk factors for severe Covid-19 and death,” writes John Nkengasong, head of the African Health Authority (Africa CDC), in the science magazine “Nature”.
The virologist emphasizes that infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other pathogens are widespread in Africa and that they could possibly “influence immune function and activation as is known”. “This in turn can influence the immune response to Covid-19,” said Nkengasong. However, there is currently little information about this process.
Other reasons for Africa’s relative Covid integrity: Measures such as wearing masks and border closings were quickly decided on the continent. In addition, there are hardly any nursing homes or old people’s homes in large parts of Africa.
Most of the elderly in sub-Saharan Africa are cared for by their families. Especially during the first wave of the pandemic, most of the Covid fatalities in the West were in old people’s and nursing homes.
Last but not least, the lower degree of urbanization in Africa and the fact that many areas of everyday life take place outdoors also reduce the risk of cluster formation. As the third largest economy on the continent, South Africa, of all places, has been hit hardest by the pandemic. The average age in South Africa is also higher than in the rest of the continent.
This is how important vaccination is: Infectiologist Manuel Battegay on data during Corona(01:47)