As countries actively vaccinate against COVID-19, Haiti still awaits vaccines

The Caribbean nation has not yet received its allotment of the Astra Zeneca vaccine

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The Miami Herald reports that after a year since the pandemic began, Haiti hasn’t received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for its population of 11 million people.

Haiti is scheduled to receive 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX, an initiative intended to help poorer countries most in need of receiving the vaccines.

The free doses were expected to arrive in May but were delayed due to administrative delays. India, which initially offered 10,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine they produce, now wants to delay exports of the vaccine as cases rise there.

Immigrants Receive COVID-19 Vaccinations At Community Center Event
Haitian immigrant Anaida Jean-Pierre, 92, receives a COVID-19 vaccine on March 14, 2021 in Stamford, Connecticut. T (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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According to ABC News, health experts who expressed concerns about the well-being of Haitians are being pushed aside in light of the violence and political instability in the island nation.

More than 12,700 positive cases of COVID were reported and 250 deaths, significantly lower than in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. But health experts believe those numbers are underreported.

Esther Racine, a 26-year-old mother of two, who lost her father during the 2010 earthquake, says her people are more concerned with the escalating violence than the coronavirus. Racine sold 800 face masks during the beginning of the pandemic. Now says she barely sells 200.

“People don’t really believe in the coronavirus. Look around,” she told ABCNews, as she waved at a maskless crowd of people in downtown Port-au-Prince. “People worry more about violence than the virus.”

A spike in kidnappings and gang-related killings has led to concern about how vaccines could be safely administered as a growing number of people are afraid of leaving their homes. Earlier this month, a Haiti pastor and three others were kidnapped by gunmen during a Facebook Live church ceremony.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a Geneva-based public-private partnership that is co-leading COVAX said some of the documentation needed for delivery to the country was just recently completed.

“Haiti has only recently completed some of the essential documentation that are prerequisites for processing of a shipping order,” Gavi told ABC.

It was also reported that the country didn’t apply for a pilot program that would’ve helped it receive early doses, according to Pan American Health Organization.

Per ABC News, in a new U.S. State Department report cited by a human rights research center, it is alleged that Haiti’s government misappropriated more than $1M in coronavirus aid. The government reportedly bypassed an agency charged with approving state contracts so that $34M was disbursed with no government oversight.

Lauré Adrien, general director of Haiti’s Health Ministry, said the delay in receiving vaccines was due to scrutiny around the AstraZeneca vaccine – which requires two doses – and the country’s lack of adequate infrastructure to store mass supply.

Read More: More Black Americans open to vaccines after outreach efforts

“It’s no secret that we don’t have excellent conservation facilities,” Adrien said. “We wanted to be sure that we had all the parameters under control before we received vaccine stocks.”

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