Haiti does not have a single vaccine to offer its more than 11 million people more than a year after the pandemic began, raising concerns among health experts that the well-being of Haitians is being sidelined as violence and political instability deepen across the country.
So far, Haiti is expected to receive only 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through a United Nations program aimed at ensuring that the neediest countries receive COVID-19 vaccines.
The free doses were scheduled to arrive no later than May, but delays are expected because Haiti missed a deadline and the key Indian manufacturer is now prioritizing a surge in domestic demand.
The country also failed to apply for a pilot program in which it would have received some of its allotted doses early, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Waste and opacity
Meanwhile, a human rights think tank cited in a new U.S. State Department report found that the Haitian government misappropriated more than $1 million in coronavirus aid. The report also accused government officials of spending $34 million in the “utmost opacity,” without going through an agency charged with approving state contracts.
Lauré Adrien, director-general of Haiti’s Ministry of Health, blamed the vaccine delay on scrutiny of AstraZeneca’s injections and is concerned that the country lacks the infrastructure to ensure proper storage of the vaccine, adding that his agency prefers a single-dose vaccine. AstraZeneca requires two doses.
Many poorer countries have experienced long waits for COVAX vaccines as wealthier countries purchased supplies, although, unlike Haiti, most have received at least an initial shipment. Some took matters into their own hands, securing shots through donations and private agreements.
The lack of vaccines in Haiti is combined with reports of more than 12,700 cases and 250 deaths, figures that experts believe are unreliable.
While face masks officially remain mandatory in Haitian businesses, compliance is low. Airport closures and curfews have long since been lifted, and other precautions are rare.
Ongoing protests and an increase in gang-related kidnappings and murders taking place with impunity have some wondering how many vaccinations will be administered given the lack of stability and the blatant corruption of the US-backed President Jovenel Moïse’s administration, coupled with a growing number of people afraid to leave their homes.
Some officials have expressed concern about the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has recently come under scrutiny in Europe after a small number of people who received it developed unusual blood clots.
Featured image: Haitians are trying to deal with the pandemic (File photo)