Omicron variant is the result of accumulating vaccines and leaving Africa out, says specialist

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Omicron variant is the result of accumulating vaccines and leaving Africa out, says specialist

The emergence of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has caused controversy and concern around the world in recent days, especially after several countries have restricted and even banned the entry of passengers arriving on flights from at least six African countries.

In Brazil, the Ministry of Health stated in a note that it has not registered cases of infection by the variant in the country. The Minister of Civil Affairs, Ciro Nogueira, posted on Twitter that as of this Monday (29th) the country will close the borders to flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, said that his country – where the omicron variant was detected for the first time – cannot be “punished” for having found the variant thanks to the available technology.

However, an important voice has been raised on the matter: that of Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, spokesperson for the African Alliance for the Distribution of Vaccines, who has been clear in her criticisms and demands for developed countries.

“The emergence of this variant was inevitable. This was due to the lack of vaccination and the accumulation of vaccines by developed countries,” he said.

The BBC spoke to Alakija about this matter. Check it out below.

You say that the emergence of such a variant was inevitable. Why? It was totally unavoidable. But first I’d like to say something: if the Covid-19 that appeared in China had first appeared in Africa, there is no doubt that the world would have locked Africa and thrown the key far away.

There would be no urgency to develop vaccines because we would be expendable. Africa would have become known as the Covid-19 continent.

What is happening now was inevitable, and is a result of the world not vaccinating everyone fairly, urgently and quickly.

Did this lack of urgency cause this situation? Developed countries have stockpiled vaccines and, to be very honest, these travel restrictions to countries on the African continent are unacceptable, ​​because they are based on political issues and not on scientific research.

We don’t have enough information about the omicron variant. The best we can say about it, from a scientific point of view, is that we don’t know anything.

Until everyone is vaccinated, no one is safe from this pandemic, so what will be the global response to this new challenge? Will it be a political response to protect the people of each country, preventing the arrival of those ‘unvaccinated Africans’?

The question to be asked is: why are Africans not being vaccinated, what is happening?

So the arrival of this new variant was predictable? As I have already said, the lack of political will and the lack of a global vaccination campaign –that is, an effort to ensure that all inhabitants of this planet have access to vaccines– made this variant appear in very vulnerable areas of Africa.

The world has refused to vaccinate everyone with little support given to the Covax initiative (an initiative led by the World Health Organization that seeks to guarantee vaccines to poor countries) or other methods of distribution.

Is the responsibility joint? Yes. We knew that these decisions, this accumulation of vaccines by some countries, would lead us to more dangerous variants. Why is everyone surprised now? Why are we closing Africa when this virus is already on three continents?

No one is closing in on Belgium and Israel (where cases of the omicron variant have also been found).

Why are we isolating Africa? This is wrong, and it is time for our African leaders to face it.

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