Thousands of Covid jabs are going unused in Ethiopia, why?

[Apology for the previous post, it contained many types and errors. This one may not either]

Vaccine refusal is discarding thousands of unused Covid jabs in Ethiopia as people show huge disinterest in taking jabs on time. Ever since the Covid-19 vaccines rolled out in the world, the need to get everyone vaccinated became harder but as global vaccine distribution reached some of the poorest countries in the world, a substantial number of people in the regions are refusing to take the vaccines for different reasons. In this blog, I will take you to Africa’s second most populous nation, Ethiopia, specially the south eastern part of the Ogaden desert where I was born and bred. I will share what Covid is like in Somali region of Ethiopia, the second largest territory and home to more than 8 million indigenous Somalis.

Covid-19 was and still is a global health crisis that turned our lives upside down. The virus has disrupted education, travels and work – all aspects of our everyday routines to be specific. However as the virus spread its wings and crossed beyond borders, it’s impact was felt badly from one place to another. Even though the developed countries have suffered more than the developing ones, overcoming the burden of its impact was not the same for every country. Ethiopia was shipped to a fair amount of 2.2 million AstraZeneca doses in February by COVAX. The 119 million nation was struggling to come up with a massive second wave Covid surge back in March and April when these vaccines arrived first. However not everyone in Ethiopia understands how preventive vaccines are to the virus. To many people in Ethiopia, Covid-19 vaccines were something they hardly even heard of. As the spread of the virus doubled and daily deaths increased, the need to awaken people to take the vaccine began. The government used local media to spread the message of the vaccine but ended up not getting as many people as they expected.

Our Somali region is among the few places in Ethiopia hardly hit by the virus specially the spring deaths were the worst ever recorded. Even though there’s no data on the exact number of people who died of the virus, successive deaths that happened nearly every day proved the real threat of the disease. Our Somali region has received thousands of these jabs but unfortunately an estimated two-third of these Covid jabs went unused and are currently stored in the health bureau. Even though the government has made it clear to the people the importance of the vaccine, many people still hesitate to take it. Unlike the west where vaccine deniers exist, they at least know the severity of the virus. Here it seems that people don’t even believe in the very existence of the virus. I’m sure that you’re wondering why but here death means death and health means health – and as they even realize people dying of the virus, they are overshadowed by a web of doubts and myths that the virus doesn’t kill. 

Why do people in Somali region not want to take the vaccine?

It’s a good question and the reason is nothing other than people’s lack of knowledge about the importance of the vaccine. People think that their fate is bigger than the threat it poses even when they see their loved ones dying. Few others think that the vaccine isn’t safe. I think this last reason is still questionable and I may be one of those people tbh but that’s not the only reason why we have thousands of unused Covid jabs in our state. On the last muslim Eid-fitr of the year, I prayed in Jigiga, the largest state city of our Somali region along with thousands of people in a footbal stadium. That day was a good time for the health officials to preach to people about the importance of the vaccine and as loud speakers transmitted voices from distances, I could hear the Sheiks, religious leaders encouraging people to get vaccinated and not waste the vaccines.

Eid prayer in Jigjiga in May, 2021

Despite the ongoing health problems of the virus so far, people in Ethiopia and Somali in particular are putting a deaf ear on the calls of the government to take vaccines and that’s why we have thousands of stored doses in fridges. There’s no accurate statistics of the trend of the Covid right now but it seems that it’s getting slower in the region but who knows? It’s just my own observation that does the calculations. As the world struggles to vaccinate everyone, there are many parts of the world like Ethiopia and many other African countries that don’t only need to be vaccinated but first need to be briefed on the real danger of the virus. This post is not based on information from health officials, it’s just based on a general look at our situations and much of what I said is what I’ve observed and personally know. I hope it shed some lights about our Somali region and why people don’t like to be vaccinated. 

I typed this piece while I was enjoying my last day of the summer break in a hotel in Ali Jirde in Hargeisa before I head over to my work tomorrow and may contain many typos but as I often end with, I’m a growing blogger, So if you judge my writing on many things, it’s not. Till next time, stay safe.

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