The recent arrival of Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa gave the rest of Africa hope that afterall not everything was lost for the continent.
This was after it emerged that developed countries had bloc-bought so much vaccine that it would take years for the developing countries to finally get to vaccinate their populations.
South Africa’s purchase arrived from AstraZeneca, one of the world leaders in Covid-19 research and in vaccine.
This past week it emerged that the vaccine roll-out the planning of which was already advanced would be suspended – at best temporarily.
The raging debate the whole of this week – not just in Africa but globally has been the response that the mutated variant commonly known as South African variant will have upon vaccine.
This after it became clear that the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine was questioned by experts against the South african variant.
The variant developed after the vaccine research was already done.
The speed with which new variants are now developing, often way ahead of vaccines and in the process becoming resistant is a big concern, especially for african countries where vaccines take long to arrive and be administered.
Across the world millions of people remain under various interventions to limit the virus. Schools remain closed as do other businesses like restaurants.
All these interventions come at immense disruptions to the economy, resulting also in untold emotional misery and loss of livelihoods for mankind. But perhaps these interventions remain by far the starkest reminder yet that fighting Covid-19 will be long and with no clear point of victory.
Vaccine by far remains the biggest and most portent hope to defeat coronavirus.
Nobody is safe until the majority of global population has been vaccinated.
The virus mutates faster and more efficiently where there is high transmission rate.
For Botswana, as is indeed the case for many countries, it is important to retain confidence in vaccines and in vaccination.
What happened in South Africa is a classic case of losing the public confidence in vaccines. But it is an aberration.
It is a reminder of what is at stake.
The more these mutations happen the more the efficacy of vaccines will be undermined.
Mutations by nature often reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and also have a way of evading even natural immunity.
The big contest now is between vaccines and new variants.
This is a big deal especially for African countries that are for the most part far down behind the curve on both vaccine acquisitions and also its administration.
The best African countries can do now is to observe the protocols of washing hands frequently, keeping social distance and using sanitizers.
Also more importantly is the fact that African governments are better advised on the limitations of vaccines.
Impressions should not be allowed to settle that vaccines are a panacea.
Not much is known about these vaccines.
It is not clear how long the immunity created will last.
It is thus not clear if vaccines will be an annual ritual or not.
Vaccines are useful, but in the face of mutations the limitations become so glaring that if the population is left in the dark on the key science information as African government are wont to do, it might result in both life and political ramifications that are difficult to fathom.
The world and humanity might possibly never get back the life they knew before Covi-19.
But the path to that life certainly passes through the vaccine, pending the defeat of mutations.