Africa, Far Behind – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt

Dec. 1, 2021, 6:32 a.m. ET

Last week, just days before scientists discovered the Omicron variant, South Africa’s government asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer not to make some planned deliveries of their Covid-19 vaccines. The country already had more doses in storage than it could use — about 16 million, in a country of 60 million people — and officials were worried that further supplies would spoil before they could be used.

How could that be?

The main answer should be familiar to Americans: vaccine skepticism. “There is a fair amount of apathy and hesitancy,” Dr. Shabir Madhi, a vaccination expert in South Africa, told Reuters. For similar reasons, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi have asked donors to pause vaccine deliveries, my colleague Declan Walsh has reported.

(This article on vaccine skepticism in Africa, by Lynsey Chutel and Max Fisher, has more detail.)

The sources of the skepticism are different in the U.S. and in Africa. In much of Africa, they are related to decades of exploitation and poverty. In the U.S., the biggest cause is political polarization: More than 35 percent of Republican voters are unvaccinated, compared with fewer than 10 percent of Democrats.

But both forms of skepticism stem from distrust — of experts, institutions and government leaders. And that distrust has become a major reason that the world is struggling to defeat Covid. The more people remain unvaccinated, the more the Covid virus spreads and the more people die. Less vaccination also increases the chances that dangerous variants will emerge.

…(read more).

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