Battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, people in Africa hope immunization will bring normalcy to their lives as countries on the continent prepare to vaccinate their people.
The year 2020 will consistently be characterized by the deadly coronavirus which has left many without occupations and revenues, from Cape Town to Addis Ababa, Cairo to Kigali, Accra to Nairobi.
People across the African continent concur that masks and social distancing are now part and parcel of their lives. The retail, horticulture, and schooling sectors struggled hard to acclimate to the drastic shifts in individual habits with supply chains overall seriously upset.
Amid the chaos, there is a silver lining as COVID-19 immunization is offering hope to people that life will be normal soon.
A six-nation survey by GeoPoll in December revealed sliding family finances and heightening distress across Africa as the COVID-19 pandemic and related measures bite harder.
The report noted that Africans look forward to the COVID-19 vaccine for relief from soaring financial and emotional stress.
In the streets of the capital Nairobi, Anadolu Agency spoke to Kenyans to find out whether they will agree to be vaccinated from the virus. The responses were mixed.
Julien Awuor, 32, voiced great interest in getting a jab. "I've lost my work and this is something that anybody who has a family of two like me knows is painful [...] I can only express myself in tears. I live depending on day-to-day work. Not being a college graduate, I have no work. If there's a vaccine, I'll be the first one in line, I need it. COVID-19 has destroyed my life and that of my family. Everybody agrees they need immunization."
In the Eastleigh area of Nairobi, commonly known as little Mogadishu being predominantly inhabited by Kenyan Somalis, many others also support the vaccine rollout.
"Here in Eastleigh, business people like us are truly suffering because of the pandemic. We have no clients since individuals fear getting this illness. If there's a vaccine that works, let them offer it to us so our businesses can revive. I'm requesting the government to move quickly and procure the vaccine that will also cure our ailing businesses," Abdi Farah, a businessman, said.
Sisters Caroline and Jane Wachira, however, differ on the vaccine being given to Kenyans.
"Indeed, I need the antibody or vaccine. That'll be the best thing that has so far happened to us in 2021. The illness is killing people and snatching jobs. We need a break, we need a way out," said Caroline.
Her sister disagreed, saying: "I don't support the rollout of this vaccine as I don't know what is in the medication. I'll watch out to see how it influences others and maybe only take it when I'm sure it's safe. Africans should be the last to be tried on [...] let's see first how the world reacts to it."
The GeoPoll survey also reported stark differences between nations in terms of financial and emotional impact of the pandemic, with Kenya and South Africa feeling effects worse than Nigeria, Mozambique, Cote D'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Underlining the importance of a vaccine to improve the continent's economic outlook, the GeoPoll study found that 62% of respondents were likely to seek a vaccine as soon as it is available. People in South Africa, which has suffered the most infections in Africa, were most likely to seek a vaccine, while those in the DRC reported the lowest likelihood of seeking a vaccine right away.
Roxana Elliott from GeoPoll noted that "over 60% are likely to take a vaccine as soon as it is available."
The African Union has secured 270 million COVID-19 doses for Africans. The vaccines, according to African Union Chair President Cyril Ramaphosa, will be supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through an independent licensee, Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson.
John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is worried about the challenges in distributing the vaccine in African countries, especially rural setups.
"My greatest concern is not that there will be a lapse in vaccination once we begin on the continent -- the pipeline for vaccines will ease over time. The major issue is getting started. Community engagement is incredibly critical for the uptake of the COVID19 vaccine in Africa," he noted.
"In order to achieve our 60% vaccination target for Africa, vaccination will need to happen between 2021-2022, which would require a significant vaccine campaign. Our recommendation is to begin in major urban areas, while heavily engaging the community," he added.
The Kenyan government has ordered 24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, according to Patrick Amoth, the acting director of health. The doses are expected to arrive early in January with the final batch to come in on March 2021.
Kenya's Health Ministry has said frontline workers and people of high risk will be vaccinated first, including the elderly, police, healthcare professionals and teachers.
Kenya Airways (KQ) and Ethiopia Airlines have already unveiled ultra-modern pharma facilities, saying they are ready to ship the vaccines. The facilities will meet the demand for pharmaceutical products globally and support the need to maintain product integrity throughout the supply chain.
Other African countries are set to receive their vaccines in March, with hopes of bringing the pandemic to an end.
Voicing concern over the dire situation in Africa due to a new COVID-19 strain, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that distribution of vaccines against the virus "has been inequitable."
Highlighting the threat of this new strain, the WHO said that according to preliminary analysis, the strain circulating in South Africa is causing a surge in new infections in the country, as well as in three other African countries -- Botswana, Gambia and Zambia.