Little affected by COVID-19, Haiti struggles to vaccinate its population

(Port-au-Prince) Only 27,000 people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in Haiti, where the low virulence of the epidemic does not attract residents to vaccination centers, to such an extent that the authorities intend to send them back. unused stocks of vaccines to countries where demand is greatest.

“We do not need vaccines for the moment but people to be vaccinated”, summarizes Lauré Adrien, Director General of the Ministry of Public Health and Population.

The Caribbean country only received a first batch of 500,000 doses in July but since then, according to ministry data, only just over 27,000 Haitians out of 11 million inhabitants have been fully immunized, and 43,000 others received a first dose.

Before the summer, some Haitians with the means to travel had gone to the United States to be vaccinated but this represents only a “tiny portion of the population” according to the official.

“We have started a vaccinodrome strategy in certain town halls. Unfortunately, it did not have the expected results: it was not the big crowd ”, recognizes the Dr Laureate Adrien.

In order to avoid wasting doses that expire in November, the authorities will return unused stocks to countries where the demand is more urgent.

“In exchange, we will have vaccines which will have longer expiration dates,” explains William Pape, a Haitian infectious disease specialist.

“Haitians are not against vaccination in general. We had experience with the vaccine against cholera, widely accepted, ”recalls the doctor, who has established the main center for the fight against infectious diseases in the country facing a large slum in Port-au-Prince.

Between October 2010 and January 2019, Haiti was ravaged by a cholera epidemic, imported by Nepalese peacekeepers, which killed more than 10,000 people and infected more than 800,000 others.

“Here, people believe in everyday reality. According to the last survey that was carried out, 88% know that there is COVID-19 in Haiti but they have not known anyone who has died of COVID-19 ”, reports Dr pape.

This low virulence of the epidemic is a relief for Haiti, one of the most unequal countries in the world, where the vast majority of inhabitants do not have access to basic health care.

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