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6 Dec, 2021 14:34

Suspected ‘incubator’ of new Covid-19 strains identified

Suspected ‘incubator’ of new Covid-19 strains identified

African nations cannot ramp up their vaccination rates fast enough without foreign help and may become “a perfect incubator for variants” of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a new report says.

The “extreme vaccine discrimination” leaves the 1.3 billion people living in Africa lagging behind in the global race to protect humanity against Covid-19. While wealthier nations are administering booster shots to their populations, in Africa, the full vaccination rate remains at less than 7%. Unless vaccine aid for the continent is boosted significantly, it will present a potential threat to the rest of the world in terms of new viral mutations.

The stern warning comes from the London-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation, as it published a new report on Monday detailing the challenges African nations are facing in their response to Covid-19.

The continent “might well become a perfect incubator for variants,” the charity said in a statement. “We know that if the virus is not efficiently defeated everywhere, it will continue to spread and mutate.”

Ensuring equitable and balanced access to vaccines is not just a matter of justice, even less of charity. It is a matter of global security and thus of shared interest.

Ibrahim, the Sudanese telecoms billionaire who chairs the Africa-focused nonprofit he founded, lamented the fact that “we continue to live with extreme vaccine discrimination, and Africa in particular is being left behind.”

He cited the recent discovery of the Omicron variant of concern, which was first identified by geneticists in South Africa, as an example of the harm that low vaccination rates in Africa pose to the world. Whether the mutation actually emerged on African soil remains undetermined by scientists.

The new report details various aspects of the fight against Covid-19 in Africa, from vaccine availability or the lack thereof, through lapses in identifying the precise toll of the disease, to the wider problems with healthcare and epidemic preparedness with which many African nations continue to grapple.