Category Archives: Africa

Please stay out of Africa, Tony Blair

This was particularly good, and you might substitute any number of world leaders for Tony Blair. And don’t miss the comments at the bottom by Tom Watson. mrossol

UnHerd, December 6, 2021, by Samuel Adu-Gyamfi

In the past two weeks, Africa has once again come under attack from global public health policy. First, numerous countries barred travel from Southern Africa because of the Omicron variant — even though this was only discovered through South Africa’s outstanding epidemiological expertise and was already present elsewhere. And now Tony Blair has launched his own fusillade, demanding a new Africa policy to ensure the “ability to get Covid vaccines into people’s arms”.

Why does Blair think we need his leadership? Africa is made up of sovereign states. Nevertheless, the former PM is constantly popping up to “advise” countries that he feels are not following “correct Covid plans”, most recently as a “special Covid emissary” to Tanzania. It should be up to African countries to determine their own public health goals, and Covid-19 is far from the most serious public health concern in Africa today.

In his article Blair states that without full vaccination “[in] the poorly vaccinated parts of the world the virus will continue to mutate, eventually spreading beyond a country’s borders”. Which begs the question: do Western countries fear that Africans will die of Covid, or rather that they will infect them with Covid? It seems more about the latter.

The former Labour leader’s intervention doesn’t seem to have much to do with African public health. The predicament of several African countries including my own, Ghana, is not primarily about Covid. Studies suggest that existing Covid antibody levels (natural immunity) on the continent, which were 22% by May 2021, are probably by now at least 40%. Meanwhile, non-communicable diseases are increasing and causing a lot of deaths, which has been exacerbated since the Covid-19 crisis. According to one recent study, “in Ghana, the burden and mortality from CNCDs [chronic non-communicable diseases] have achieved epidemic proportions” and “has been estimated that CNCDs are responsible for about 43% of deaths in the country”. Such diseases continue to destroy countless lives on the continent with no special interventions from world leaders like Mr. Blair.

I welcome Covid vaccines, but these vaccines will not address Africa’s health infrastructure fragility, nor the increasing death and declining life-expectancy that have resulted from the Covid crisis. The West should be interested in an equitable partnership that will support Africa to name their own public health goals. The sort of medical neo-colonialism displayed by Blair will always weaken the continent’s prospects.

Former leaders from the West should not only be interested in vaccinating Africans, but also in supporting Africans to fix their economies and health systems. This should include related indigenous approaches that will serve specific countries in Africa, but not the big brush that hastily defaces the entire continent. Look at country-by-country Covid death rates in Africa and compare the rate of mortality caused by Covid compared to other diseases: you will soon see that the Covid vaccine agenda is only a drop in the ocean of African public health challenges.

Africa does not need Blair’s efforts on the vaccine front: it needs an autonomous public health system.

[See some comments below:]

Kathryn Dwyer

Great article, thank you. Such good points! I’m continually horrified by the hubris of Blair, Gates, WHO, trying to force western style models of public “health” policies on countries which, as the article points out, have different health priorities, different economic realities. The catastrophic effects of enforced lockdown policies on people who don’t eat if they don’t go out to work are worse than the effects of covid for the poor. Toby Green explains this in detail in “The Covid Consensus”. No amount of vaccination will overcome the problems of poverty, lack of adequate nutrition, clean water supplies, insanitary housing conditions and pollution.

Tom Watson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_death_rates_by_country has no African country in the top 50. Obviously many deaths in Africa will be going unrecorded due to a lack of state capacity, but note that it’s South Africa (probably among the sub-saharan countries with the most competent states) that’s 51st on the list, with c.1,500 deaths per million. The UK and US have around 2,100 and 2,300 per million respectively.
It also states “This (sic) data is for entire populations, and does not reflect the differences in rates relative to different age groups. For example, in the United States as of 27 April 2021, the reported case fatality ratios are 0.015%, 0.15%, 2.3%, and 17% for the age groups 0–17, 18–49, 50–74, and 75 or over, respectively,” citing the US CDC.
The UK Health Security Agency’s vaccine surveillance reports at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccine-weekly-surveillance-reports contain info on deaths by age group and https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/january2021 has interactive estimates of the UK population by age in 2019: of deaths within 60 days of a positive test between the 1st and 28th of Nov, 45.8% were among over-80s (5.0% of 2019 pop), and 72.9% among over-70s (13.5% of 2019 pop). Fewer than 5% of deaths were among under-50s (62.3% of 2019 pop). I.e. [Edit: assuming constant infection rates across age groups, although I believe the highest rates are found in school-age children as they’re the population most tested when asymptomatic] the over-70s are almost 80 times more likely to die of Covid than the under-50s, and the over-80s are fully 130 times more likely to die of Covid than the under-50s (and vaccination rates are highest in the old).
The people Covid kills tend to be old. There is no factor as significant to Covid risk as age. Of those who aren’t, they tend to be overweight or have significant underlying health conditions (of the sort that would leave you vulnerable to plenty of other maladies endemic in Africa long before your 70th birthday).
https://www.indexmundi.com/map/?v=30&r=af&l=en and https://www.statista.com/statistics/1218173/life-expectancy-in-african-countries/ both suggest that the only African countries with life expectancies greater than 70 are in north Africa or small island nations (Mauritius, Seychelles), collectively accounting for well below 10% of the African population according to https://www.worldometers.info/population/countries-in-africa-by-population/. To put it bluntly, the average African simply doesn’t live long enough that Covid should be high up on his list of health concerns.
[Edit: this was of note in https://unherd.com/2021/12/south-africas-looming-vaccine-revolt/“Take-up of the crucial HIV-Aids retroviral dropped from 95% to 30%; malaria medication showed the same path. Attendances for tuberculosis screenings dropped by two-thirds, while consultations with GPs were down 60% and tens of thousands of urgent surgery procedures were postponed for the coronavirus patients who never arrived.”]

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