Scientists Can’t Figure Out Why COVID Numbers Are Dropping Rapidly
COVID-19 is not affecting Africa the same way that it is the rest of the world, and scientists want to know why.
With a population of 1.3 billion people, Africa is the world’s second-most-populous continent, and it’s also the world’s poorest. Africa has much less access to vaccines than places like the Americas and Western Europe, yet the continent has experienced the second-lowest number of deaths from the virus than of any of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) six designated regions.
Nearly 152,000 Africans have died of COVID-19 since the global pandemic began. The Western Pacific region has seen just 136,267 deaths. Even so, Africa has seen the best possible pandemic outcome in the world. In the Americas, more than 2.3 million people have died from the virus, and in Europe, the number is nearly 1.5 million.
Scientists acknowledge that inadequate reporting and poor data collection play some part in the low numbers, however, the huge gap between that region and the rest of the world is too substantial to attribute to just poor record-keeping.
“I think there’s a different cultural approach in Africa, where these countries have approached COVID with a sense of humility because they’ve experienced things like Ebola, polio, and malaria,” Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said.
“It’s not always about how much money you have or how sophisticated your hospitals are,” said Christian Happi, director of the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria.
Age may be a factor as the median age in Africa is around 18 years old, about half that of North America and 24 years younger than Europe. In the United States, the median age is around 38, and COVID-19 is far more threatening to the older populations than the younger ones. Obesity, another significant risk factor, is also less prominent on the continent than elsewhere: Africa and southeast Asia are the least-obese regions in the world.
What’s of most interest to medical experts is that Africa has very limited access to vaccines with less than 6% of the population being vaccinated.