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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Covid: DR Congo in race against time to vaccinate people

Nurse Jeanne Dusungu is vaccinating anyone who turns up to the white Unicef tent in the grounds of North Kivu provincial hospital in Goma against Covid-19 – but very few are locals.

“There are some false rumours circulating, that the vaccine is fake, that it will make us sterile. There are people who think that,” she says, disbelievingly.

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“I tell the people to come and get vaccinated – it is protecting yourself and protecting others, your family, the entire nation.”

But in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second largest country in Africa and nearly the size of Western Europe, this is proving an uphill struggle.

Only 5,000 people have been vaccinated out of a population of nearly 90 million.

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And in the city of Goma, where the rollout has just started after numerous delays, there is a worrying lack of interest.

It means 1.3 million AstraZeneca doses, out of 1.7 million received in early March through Covax – the international fair access scheme – are being redistributed to other African countries for use before they expire at the end of June.

The reasons are complex:

  • concerns over the potential link to rare blood clots in Europe delayed vaccine rollout in many African countries too, just as vaccination was starting
  • some European countries restricted use of the vaccine to certain age groups or gave away their doses altogether
  • as a result, harmful misinformation spread on social media about its safety

 

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