Scientists wonder why COVID-19 discriminates. COVID-19 data is difficult to get especially in African nations with poor monitoring, according to scientists who also caution that falling coronavirus patterns might rapidly shift, LA times reported.
However, according to Wafaa El-Sadr, head of global health at Columbia University, there is something “strange” going on in Africa that is perplexing scientists. “Africa lacks the vaccinations and resources to combat COVID-19 that Europe and the United States have, yet they appear to be doing better,” she added.
In Africa, only around 6% of the population is vaccinated. In its weekly pandemic assessments, the WHO has referred to Africa as “one of the least-affected areas in the globe” for months. According to some studies, the continent’s young population — the average age is 20, compared to 43 in Western Europe — as well as its lower rate of urbanization and people’s proclivity to spend time outdoors, may have protected it from the virus’s more devastating consequences thus far.
Several research are looking at if there are any additional causes, such as hereditary factors or previous parasite illness infection. COVID-19 patients with high rates of malaria exposure were less likely to experience severe sickness or death than persons with no history of the mosquito-borne disease, according to Ugandan researchers who published their findings on Friday.
“We went into this project expecting to see a higher rate of negative outcomes in people with a history of malaria infections, because that’s what we saw in patients who were co-infected with malaria and Ebola,” said Jane Achan, a senior research advisor at the Malaria Consortium and a study co-author.
“We were really rather astonished to see that malaria may have a protective impact,” says the researcher. This might mean that previous malaria infection “blunts” the immune system’s inclination to go into overdrive when infected with COVID-19, according to Achan.
The findings were presented at an American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting on Friday. Christian Happi, head of African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria said authorities in Africa are used to containing pandemics even without vaccinations, praising the huge networks of community health workers. He explained, “It’s not necessarily about how much money you have or how advanced your hospitals are.”
African authorities haven’t earned enough credit for moving swiftly, according to Devi Sridhar, head of global public health at the University of Edinburgh; she noted Mali’s move to block its borders before the coronavirus arrived as an example. “I believe there is a distinct cultural attitude in Africa, where these nations have handled COVID with a sense of humility,” Sridhar added, citing Ebola, polio, and malaria as examples.
The coronavirus has ravaged South Africa in recent months, killing an estimated 89,000 people, making it the continent’s worst country. However, while conceding that there may be gaps, African authorities are not reporting large numbers of unexpected deaths that might be coronavirus-related at this time.
According to WHO data, COVID-19 mortality in Africa represent for only 3% of worldwide totals, whereas deaths in the Americas and Europe account for 46% and 29%, respectively. The government of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has documented roughly 3,000 deaths among its 200 million people. Every two or three days, the United States registers that many deaths.
Opemipo Are, a 23-year-old in Abuja, the capital territory of Nigeria said she’s comforted by the low numbers. “They claimed there would be dead bodies on the streets and all that,” she recalled, “but nothing like that happened.” Nigerian officials launched a campaign on Friday to drastically increase COVID-19 vaccinations in the West African country.
Officials hope to vaccinate half of the population by the end of February, a goal they believe would help them attain herd immunity.Africa may not require as many vaccinations as the West, according to Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist who serves on many WHO advisory panels.
It’s a contentious concept, according to him, that African experts are seriously considering — and it’s similar to a suggestion made by British officials in March to let COVID-19 infect the population freely in order to establish immunity. That does not, however, negate the need for immunizations in Africa.
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