I Am a Doctor In Nigeria, And Without Vaccines We Cannot Stop This Pandemic

I work in a clinic in Shinkafi, northwestern Nigeria. I am responsible for ensuring that there are no COVID-19 infections within it. So far, we have succeeded. All patients are examined and tested, and we have found quite a few cases. I am worried about getting infected, but we have enough protective equipment in our hospital. The situation is different in Nigerian state health centers. There, to this day, the staff do not have enough masks and sometimes they do not even have gloves.

In Nigeria, if you arrive as a potential COVID-19 patient in the admission area of ​​a state hospital, you are not treated immediately. In addition, you must bring the gloves and masks yourself. Many colleagues from these centers have been infected, but they continue on because, as health personnel, we have a commitment to the people here. We are doing our part to stop this pandemic, for Nigeria and for the world, but we have no chance of succeeding if the politicians who decide on vaccines fail us.

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I have heard that, in Spain, more than 25% of the population have received at least one dose. I’m glad about it. I am a doctor, I do not discriminate according to the origin of the patients. Every high-risk patient who gets vaccinated is good news.

But, I wonder, what about high-risk patients in my country? Nearly four million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have reached Nigeria through the COVAX initiative. That is good, of course, but, despite this, it is only enough to immunize two million of the more than 200 million inhabitants, less than 1%.

Fighting COVID-19 is not easy here. Not only because of the lack of protective equipment. For example, in the public clinic that is close to ours, in the city, there is no oxygen at all, for anyone. If there is a patient who develops the disease in a severe way, he simply has little chance. Especially in areas like this, shouldn’t people be protected as soon as possible?

The pandemic has hit us all, in all countries. Let’s defeat it all together too. There’s no other way. Why haven’t all the factories in the world that somehow have manufacturing capacity joined in global vaccine production? Every day that not enough is produced translates into loss of human life, in Nigeria and in many countries in the global South.

As a physician, I am committed to acting solely in the best interest of the people. No other factor should influence my decisions. But whether or not the people here can be vaccinated, and whether it is soon or within two years, does not depend on me. It is decided far, for us and about us. I can only appeal to those who are responsible for it. Do not forget that here we also fight against the virus. We want to help people and end the pandemic.

Dr. Salih M. Auwal works at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Shinkafi, Nigeria.

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