DAILY DOSE: Omicron nears omnipresence; Neo-colonial remnants drive African vaccine hesitancy narrative.

In a startling example of how infectious the Omicron variant is, look no further than the United States. In about a week’s time, prevalence exploded from 3% to nearly 75%. Per STAT, “The Omicron variant now accounts for 73% of Covid-19 infections being diagnosed in the United States, and in some parts of the country 90% of infections are caused by viruses from the Omicron strain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Monday. Though it’s been clear from Omicron’s astonishing spread elsewhere that it would rapidly take over from Delta as the dominant variant in this country, the speed is nevertheless startling to witness.” Even if the variant actually is milder, the sheer numbers of infected individuals can cripple healthcare systems. https://bit.ly/3J8xeIj

While most of the media has accepted the narrative that Omicron infections result in milder symptoms, experts remain wary of making similar assertions. Per the Guardian, “We should remember that Delta was actually more virulent than Alpha, which itself was more virulent than the original virus. Remember the issue with Covid has never been its virulence. It’s the number of people infected. Everyone wants to believe Omicron is milder. I would like it to be milder myself, but I am very careful to not allow what I want to color the way I interpret the data.” Unfortunately, this is not what people want to hear. Everyone is tired of the whole Covid-19 pandemic and all of the mitigation efforts that goes with it. But, as an old friend once told me, you can’t call white black. https://bit.ly/3EiWWq3

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Mischaracterizing anything that concerns Africa is common practice in the West. It’s roots stretch back straight to the darkest days of colonialism. Covid-19 has triggered another wave of Western fallacy building. An op-ed in STAT addressed the issue: “In recent days, The New York Times and other outlets have painted a different picture from what we are seeing in Mbarara, warning of increasing “skepticism or outright hostility toward the Covid vaccines” in African countries after several nations declined shipments of doses. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited global “hesitancy issues” in a press briefing hours after President Biden described a “reluctance” by people in South Africa to get vaccinated. A few weeks earlier, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla stated that levels of vaccine hesitancy in poor countries on the continent are “way, way higher” than in Europe or the U.S.

“None of these claims reference the high percentages of African people who say they wanted to be vaccinated, which are similar to or even higher than rates of vaccine acceptance reported in the U.S. This distortion of the narrative of global vaccine equity is detrimental to progress.” https://bit.ly/3eeW7DS

Decolonizing the global health apparatus has received a lot of attention for the past few years. A commentary in a special issue of Lancet Global Health explains where problems lie and what is at stake. “Violent, marginalising behaviours can include continual questioning of the ability and technical skills of the staff from low-income countries. Other behaviours that undermine equitable collaboration include critical decisions being made about the study by high-income country researchers or travelling to the site without prior communication with the low-income country’s principal investigator; publishing papers or deciding authorship without the knowledge of the low-income country’s principal investigator; directly communicating with the field staff undermining the site principal investigator, and communicating unsubstantiated allegations against the principal investigator to the low-income country’s university leadership as a means of coercive influence.” This will undoubtedly piss off members of the conservative end of the spectrum. https://bit.ly/3mlXViM

Have a great day. Let’s be careful out there.

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