Where a Vaccination Campaign Faces Skepticism, War and Corruption

Kebul, Afghanistan – Afghanistan, whose citizens have largely isolated the coronovirus epidemic as exaggerated or outright cheating, is now preparing to distribute its first batch of vaccines.

One and a half million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine manufactured by the Indian manufacturer were delivered to Kabul, India’s capital, on 7 February. But the arrival was greeted with indifference by many Afghans, who Government warnings are rejected This virus is a deadly public health threat.

The cheap and easy store is being given as part of the AstraZeneca-Oxford Vaccine Kovacs program, a worldwide initiative to purchase and distribute vaccines to poor countries for free or at low prices. On 15 February, the World Health Organization authorized the use of the vaccine, which required two doses per person, paving the way for Afghanistan to begin its vaccination campaign.

Global trials have found that the vaccine provides complete protection from critical illness and death. But after the study’s participants failed a small trial to prevent mild or moderate Kovid cases, its efficacy against the virus version first seen in South Africa is in question.

Afghanistan is fighting another deadly wave as soon as the vaccine arrives, even most Afghans are aware of their daily lives. As if the virus never existed. Many people refuse to wear masks and clusters in hawks, supermarkets, restaurants and mosques in dense crowds, oblivious to the ubiquitous public health posters.

In a country plagued by war, starvation, poverty and drought, an invisible virus is thought to be fake, or after.

“Of course I will not take the vaccine because I do not believe in the existence of coronaviruses,” said Muhibullah Armani, a 30-year-old taxi driver from Kandahar.

Expressing the sentiment shared by many Armenians, Mr. Armani said, “When I see people covering their mouths and noses fearing Kovid, it makes me laugh at them.”

And even among Afghans, who believe that the virus is real and want to be vaccinated, there is little belief that the government is involved in widespread corruption, which will evenly distribute limited vaccine supplies.

“This vaccine will be available to high-ranking people,” said Khalil Jan Gurbajwal, a civilian activist from Khost province in eastern Afghanistan.

Nizamuddin, a tribal elder in the Taliban-controlled district in Faireb province in northern Afghanistan, said he feared the vaccine would be planted by well-connected leaders and warlords.

Nizamuddin said, “It is common in Afghanistan for common people to have food items stolen by corrupt people.”

The attorney general’s office said Thursday that 74 government officials from five provinces were charged with embezzlement of coronovirus response funds. Those charged were former provincial governors and deputy governors.

In Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, a hospital administrator told officials that hospital officials collected medical costs for Kovid-19 treatment for 50 beds in a hospital with only 25 beds, charging for it. “Ghost worker,” The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction recently reported.

The United States Embassy said in a statement, “This malfunction delays Afghan citizens access to potentially life-saving medical care, not only financially, but also.” But for many Afghans, the vaccine is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

As the vaccination program got underway on Tuesday, the first dose was given at the presidential palace in Kabul, a television reporter who covered the epidemic.

Distributing any vaccine in a poor country suffering from unrest is a difficult logistical challenge. In addition to overcoming public skepticism and crossing dangerous areas, the Ministry of Public Health should also distribute vaccines to remote provinces with poor roads and primitive infrastructure.

The epidemic has prompted an increase in polio cases in Afghanistan as it has made it difficult for polio teams to reach outlying areas, with the Ministry of Health’s public affairs consultant Dr. Said Osman Tahiri, who reported 56 polio cases in 2020. From 29 in 2019.

But equally worrying is that 305 cases A Polio type According to the report of zero such cases in Afghanistan in 2010, in 2010, said the head of public awareness for the polio eradication program of the ministry, Merjan Rasekh.

Mr. Rasekh attributed Afghan refugees returning from neighboring country Pakistan to a much larger increase in cases of variant polio, which has also struggled to eradicate polio. WHO expects grant Emergency approval By the end of the year for a vaccine against the variant.

Struggling with the rise in polio cases, Drs. Tahiri said health workers would also try to distribute coronovirus vaccines in Taliban-controlled areas, where militants have allowed government-run clinics. The Taliban has given public health programs an epidemic warning and distributed personal protective equipment allowing government employees in their areas.

But Dr. Tahiri admitted that the vaccination team would not be able to reach the wider areas of the country where the fighting between the Taliban and government forces is the heaviest.

Dr. Tahiri said that a thousand vaccination teams were trained last week. The ministry hopes to receive more donated vaccines; He said that Afghanistan has the capacity to collect 20 million doses.

Dr. Tahiri said “the first dose will go to health workers and security officials” who are at risk and working in crowded places. “He said that journalists would also be eligible to apply to get the vaccine.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, more than 55,000 coronoviruses and about 2,500 Kovid-related deaths have been reported in Afghanistan.

But due to limited testing and an inadequate public health system, experts say the number of actual cases and deaths is exponentially higher. The WHO model estimated in May that more than half of Afghanistan’s estimated 34 million people could be infected. The Ministry of Public Health has estimated that more than 10 million Afghans may have contracted the virus.

Even though Afghans believe that the virus is real, there is a belief that Allah determines the fate of a believer.

Ahmed Shah Ahmadi, a resident of Khost province, said there is no need to take the vaccine. “Infidels do not believe in God, and that is why they are afraid of coronaviruses. For Muslims, there is little danger,” he said.

But 46-year-old Imam Nazar, a farmer in Kunduz province, said that most people in his village believe that the virus is genuine as many villagers have died from Kovid-19. He said that he and other villagers were eager to receive the vaccine but suspected that it would reach their remote city.

“This government did not keep its promises,” Mr. Nazar said.

Fatima Faizi and Faheem Abed contributed reporting from Kabul; Farooq Jan Mangal from Khost Province; And Timur Shah from Kandahar province.

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