As Afghanistan fights the COVID outbreak, vaccines will be delayed

The WHO's planned three million doses have been delayed by several months as coronavirus cases have increased by more than 800% since May 1.

Afghanistan is dealing with a severe outbreak of COVID-19 infections, and health officials are pleading for vaccines. However, the World Health Organization has informed the country that the three million doses it had hoped to get by April will not arrive until August and it seems that vaccine delay in Afghanistan.

We are in the midst of a catastrophe, said Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, a spokesman for the health ministry, who expressed significant dissatisfaction with global vaccine distribution, which has left poor countries struggling to acquire a supply for their people.

Nazari said he has knocked on the doors of various embassies and has received “diplomatic responses” but no vaccine doses. The growing number of new cases has threatened to overburden Afghanistan’s health system, which is already reeling under the weight of the country’s ongoing warfare. The surge has been attributed in part to continued travel with India, which has brought the highly contagious Delta strain to the United States.

Furthermore, most Afghans continue to doubt the virus’s actuality or feel that their faith would protect them, and they rarely wear masks or socially isolate themselves, insulting those who do. The administration had been allowed free mass meetings until only a week ago.

The Delta variety has aided in sending Afghanistan’s infection rate skyrocketing, wreaking havoc on 16 regions, including the capital, Kabul. This week, the number of newly registered cases increased to 1,500 per day, up from 178 per day on May 1.

Hospital beds are at capacity, and it is expected that oxygen supplies would run out soon. The foreign minister, Haneef Atmar, said in a tweet on Friday that Afghan ambassadors have been asked to seek emergency oxygen supply in neighboring nations because there was not enough vaccine until now and in vaccine delay in Afghanistan


There is a massive undercount

According to government data, the epidemic has resulted in 78,000 illnesses and more than 3,000 deaths in Afghanistan. However, such data are very certainly an undercount, given they only include fatalities in hospitals, not the significantly bigger number of people who die at home.

The testing is severely insufficient. In other sections of the country, the percentage of positive COVID tests has skyrocketed from around 8% to 60% in just the last month. Anything higher than 5%, according to WHO guidelines, indicates that officials are not checking widely enough, allowing the infection to spread unchecked.

Afghans oppose testing, therefore just 3,000 tests are carried out per day, even though the country greatly increased its capacities to 25,000 per day.

Only recently has the government attempted to put a stop to the increase. For two weeks, schools, universities, and colleges were closed. It also shut down wedding venues, which had been open during the pandemic with no problems.

However, masks are rarely seen on the streets, and even where they are required, such as at government buildings, the regulation is rarely followed. Every day, up to ten airplanes arrive from India, packed with Afghans, mostly students and individuals seeking medical treatment in India.

Flight bans are not a possibility, according to Nazari, because many Afghans cannot afford to be stranded in India, and the government cannot prevent people from returning home.