While the world prepares for the expected winter onslaught of the COVID19 pandemic Ethiopia has fallen far behind in vaccination complicated by intentional duplicity and deception to it’s people as a part of the overall propaganda campaign to hide government failures. With only 7.9% of the population receiving only 1 dose and 1.3% receiving two doses of vaccine in a country of 155 million Ethiopia is reporting very few cases. Why? Certainly there is no mechanism for testing, treatment, or data collection in Tigray where a complete blockade is underway. About the number of testing sites among the number of displaced people estimated to be over 4 million and perhaps as high as 20 million there is little information.
In September 2020, Abiy Ahmed touted a new factory to make test kits allowing testing for COVID19 in a contract with the Chinese company BGI but its focus was on testing travelers coming to Ethiopia who could pay for the tests as well as creating an export product rather than government domestic use. The Ethiopian government agreed to only purchase 1.5 million kits for domestic use.
In the midst of the worldwide COVID19 pandemic that just is not going away the Ethiopian government had sown mistrust with claims of an “African solution” that would obviate foreign vaccines when the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, Ministry of Health and traditional medicinal practitioners announced that they have approved a traditional medicine that was tested on humans and animals since the COVID 19 outbreak was in December 2019. No doubt this was at the urging of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Later when the facts became known that Ethiopia did not have even the research capacity to do such a study and that it was false, the Minister of Health had to back track saying that the initial message was “misunderstood”.
There was much excitement in March 2021 when plans were announced that The first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccines produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) arrived in Ethiopia on through COVAX, which facilitated the procurement and shipment of the vaccines. Subsequent shipments of 5.4 million doses as part of the current global deployment plan were to arrive in Ethiopia by May 2021. Ethiopia had stated that by the end of 2021 20% of the population would immunized. Now the standard has changed from two injections to three further exacerbating the disparity.
While the COVAX provides up to 30% of the doses for free African countries must fund 70%. Ethiopia has spent over $2 billion in the last year alone to kill Ethiopians rather use funds to protect its citizens health. Costs of vaccines include manufacturing, safe storage, transportation, and logistical support. One dose costs $1.41 and two doses$3.15. This means Ethiopia would have to spend 70% of $362,250,000 equaling $253,575,000 to give just two doses to every Ethiopian.
Health care spending per capita in Ethiopia had slowly increased reaching almost $25 per person in 2017 before Abiy Ahmed came to power. Since then there has been a steady decline of about 10% per year. Falling birr value against foreign currency, $70 billion government foreign debt almost doubled by war expenditures, and new sanctions inhibiting foreign investment make the likelihood of increasing health care expenditures almost impossible.
The supply of vaccines has also been effected by the growing need for boosters which has caused the World Health Organization to complain that developed countries should prioritize the whole world receiving a first dose but politically this has been difficult to accept.