It’s time to protect our health workers: make them a vaccine priority
At least 17,000 health workers have died of COVID-19 over the last year. They are at the frontline of the fight against the pandemic. Older adults and people with underlying health conditions have also suffered a great deal during this pandemic. Take action now to ensure that they are prioritized in the vaccination plans of West and Central African countries.
Often exposed and under-protected, health workers have been fighting to save lives since the beginning of the pandemic. Last year, a health worker died every 30 minutes in the world—a dire statistic considering that there are less than two health workers for a thousand people in most of West and Central Ramping up the vaccinations of those on the frontline means preventing the total collapse of the healthcare system that has been weakened as a result of the pandemic.
More than half the world’s vaccine doses have so far been administered in just 10 rich countries, yet those countries represent less than 10% of the world population. More countries in the region are reporting COVID-19 cases including the new variants of the virus which are deadlier and more transmissible. This is not the time to fail our healthcare workers who have been working relentlessly to save lives. Vaccinations in Africa have begun in a few countries, but there are still too few doses.
Half of all the COVID-19 related deaths in Africa (108,031 as of 16 March 2021) were the elderly. This group, along with other adults with underlying health conditions are more likely to develop serious illness and die. People of any age with underlying health conditions must also be a priority in the vaccination plans made by governments.
The pandemic has changed older adults’ routines and the types of interactions they have with others, including within multigenerational homes. The pandemic has also affected the health care services for other illnesses and support they should receive as many hospitals have shifted their focus to treat COVID-19 patients.
The equitable rollout of vaccines in every country, starting with health workers and those at highest risk for COVID-19, should be accelerated. Vulnerable groups in lower-income countries should not be left behind as higher-income countries seek to extend their vaccination programs to their general populations.
We must call on our leaders to show morality and put humanity first.