Vaccine Scarcity in Africa
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in a vulnerable position for the past 18 months. Though vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have saved lives in the U.S., almost half of the United States still has not received vaccinations despite widespread access. As a result, cases continue to rise. Africa has seen more than 6 million COVID-19 cases and around 170,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office of Africa. Unlike the U.S., which struggles with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, vaccine scarcity in Africa is prevalent.

Vaccine Distribution in Africa

Vaccine scarcity in Africa continues to hamper African countries’ ability to vaccinate their populations. About four in five of the 38 million doses that African nations received as of June 2021 have gone to Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Tunisia and Senegal. As of June 2021, less than 1% of the continent’s population of 1.2 billion had been fully vaccinated.

“Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination catch-up, and the gap is widening,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti in an April press briefing. “Although progress has been made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line.”

AIDS as a Comorbidity

A historical parallel to Africa’s slow COVID-19 vaccine rate is the disproportionate prevalence of AIDS across the continent. The two diseases interact, with AIDS increasing the risk of serious infection or death from COVID-19.

About two in three people living with HIV come from sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS. Studies that occurred in England and South Africa show that HIV doubles the chance of dying from COVID-19.

Precautions to prevent COVID-19’s spread in Africa, such as lockdowns, also delayed HIV testing and treatment. Data from African and Asian nations showed a nearly 40% dip in testing and treatment during initial 2020 lockdowns compared to the same period in 2019.

Upcoming Donations from the US

As the U.S. reaches the 50% mark for domestic vaccination, it is beginning to donate more vaccines to other countries and help combat vaccine scarcity in Africa. For example, it is in the process of sending 25 million vaccine doses to Africa, according to State Department Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response and Health Security Gayle Smith’s statement at a digital press conference on July 21. The U.S. will donate an additional 500 million Pfizer doses, with many going to Africa. The Pfizer dose donations will occur through COVAX, an organization that allocates vaccines to participating countries monthly. COVAX will distribute the first batch of doses, totaling 60 million, in August 2021.

The U.S. State Department wants Africa to be able to produce its own vaccinations in the future. “We’re investing through our Development Finance Corporation right now in South Africa and Senegal in increased vaccine production and will be making other investments,” said Smith. “We believe that, for now and for the future, it’s important that Africa produce vaccines for its own consumptions rather than being dependent on having to import those in the majority of its medical requirements.”

Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr


The coronavirus has impacted our world more than one would have guessed. Not only are hospitals overflowing, schools closing and countries going on lockdown, but our minds are confused with the mixed information being spread on the internet. Today, people receive their news from Twitter and Facebook, sometimes not even bothering to check the facts they read against reliable sources. In order to spread truth about the global pandemic, an organization called ONE created a small movement called #PassTheMic on social media. The movement began on May 21, 2020, and it lasted through June 11, 2020. Celebrities gave their platforms over to health experts, front line workers and policy experts as a way to spread facts instead of fiction.

ONE is a global movement co-founded by Bono and other activists who believe fighting against global poverty is about justice and equality for all. The global #PassTheMic movement aims to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by the year 2030. ONE has raised $37.5 billion in support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and to fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. ONE has also participated in passing poverty-reducing legislation. This has included the Electrify Africa Act of 2016 and other laws ensuring money from gas and oil revenues be used to fight poverty in Africa.

The Age of Information

In past decades, our grandparents would sit at the kitchen table every morning with a cup of coffee in one hand and a large newspaper in the other. This is how people would receive their daily news, and they were confident that their news came from a reliable source. Fast forward a bit; our parents would sit in front of the television after dinner, the 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock news blaring with talk of war, politics and the weather. This is how they would receive their news. Today, we lie in our bedrooms and scroll for hours on social media. We have no clue if these posts are fact or fiction. All we know is that our favorite celebrity is talking about it, so it must be a big deal. ONE took notice of this new way of receiving information and took action.

As a way to spread awareness on the current pandemic, celebrities are handing their social media accounts over to those more qualified to speak on the topic. Celebrities participating in the #PassTheMic movement include Hugh Jackman, Shailene Woodley, Penelope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts and many more.

Experts Weigh In

Participating experts included Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, who learned from the Ebola pandemic of 2014-2016; David Anderson, Director of Quality at Nightingale Hospital in Manchester; Aya Chebbi, Youth Envoy of the African Union; and many more. Each expert discusses a new topic revolving around our healthcare systems, sanitation, poverty, how to handle a pandemic and where to donate. All of the experts have shared that the world needs a global response to COVID-19, as this is affecting each and every one of us.

Dr. Anthony Fauci was the first to participate in the movement on May 21, 2020. Fauci is director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and he took part in Julia Roberts’s Instagram and a YouTube interview. Fauci shared that the United States had made little progress flattening the COVID-19 curve. At the end of May, the U.S. had more than 1.5 million infections and 100,000 deaths, and these numbers have only grown. Fauci noted the importance of listening to health experts and the practice of social distancing. In addition, he has posted on his personal Instagram about vaccine research and how to cope with COVID-19.

Many experts have taken a moment to discuss the importance of helping those who may not be able to help themselves. Gayle Smith, president and CEO of ONE, stated that the virus is outrunning us, meaning that countries and leaders need to share strategies and expertise with each other. Additionally, she said something to consider is the economic impact this pandemic has had on every nation. Healthcare and supply chains alike have taken major hits. Smith noted that not every country has the ability to prevent and protect the virus. At the same time, many have become unemployed and are unable to provide food for the table. Thus, the world needs to come together and fight rather than countries fighting for themselves.


These experts will reach millions through various social media platforms as they speak directly to celebrities’ followers. As an organization created to fight global poverty, ONE understands the importance of sharing resources. Through the #PassTheMic movement, people worldwide will have access to scientific facts about the coronavirus and information about staying safe, providing for their families and helping their communities.

 – Ciara Pagels
Photo: Pixabay

Since President Obama’s announcement of his nomination of a new USAID Chief to replace Rajiv Shah, the name Gayle Smith has been echoed throughout political websites, blogs and news media platforms. With the conversation focused on Gayle Smith, many debate whether she is the prime candidate to head the world’s largest bilateral aid organization.

Gayle Smith is no stranger to development circles. As an African regional expert and former senior leader of 6 years for the National Security Council, Smith has addressed a record setting number of humanitarian crises.

Among her accomplishments is her oversight of the Open Government Partnership, a corruption-fighting initiative encouraging transparency among world governments as well as the empowerment of their citizens. She also oversaw the creation of Power Africa, an aid program fostering connections between African energy firms to allow electricity access to some of the continent’s 6 million who are without power.

Home to the Central African Republic, who has the world’s lowest economic growth rate of negative 36 percent, Africa looks to be a region in need of special attention. A USAID leader specializing in African development might just be the key. Smith has already pronounced herself a proponent of aid to Africa in her prioritization of Power Africa, and could be a valuable asset to the advancement of the numerous countries struggling to keep poverty rates at bay while stimulating economic growth.

Before working alongside President Obama as part of the National Security Council, Smith co-founded the Enough Project in 2006, an organization working to stop crimes against humanity and end genocide in some of the world’s most dangerous regions. The Enough Project first obtains information on the ground, then determines the best solution and mobilizes Washington and the American public to promote policies that work toward a better world. Smith has had an evident history not only of addressing the world’s atrocities, but of working through political leaders to become agents of change in the international arena; a task that is not always easy with regard to issues of genocide and poverty.

“I want somebody who knows all the players, who knows all the levers of power, who’s familiar with them,” Howard Berman, former congressional representative for California commented.

For those seeking a new player who knows the ropes, optimism is in the air. Smith has already been recognized as a development ‘insider’. Jim Kolbe, former congressional representative serving Arizona stated, “Few people know development as Gayle Smith does, and fewer still understand the intricacies of the spaghetti bowl that makes up our whole aid/development system.”

With Smith’s demonstrated knowledge of the inner-workings of the world of aid organizations and development agencies, many are hoping she will be able to continue to steer USAID on the track of reform while promoting a more flexible decision-making process.

Ritu Sharma, co-founder of Women Thrive Worldwide, is confident that Smith is the right person to succeed Shah. She believes that Smith even has enough clout to change some of USAID’s most stubborn patterns. Sharma stated, “A big problem with our aid is that there’s so little flexibility. When the train’s going in the wrong direction, [we] can’t change tracks.”

Given Smith’s past experience and insider knowledge of the system coupled with the leverage she holds, one thing we do know for certain is that if confirmed, she could be a highly influential leader of USAID with the power to not only support a number of recent humanitarian needs, but also to promote critical reform within the organization.

– Amy Russo

Sources: The Hill,, Enough Project, Devex
Photo: Flickr