Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients describe the challenge bluntly in a recent Washington Post column:
Vaccinating Americans and people around the world to defeat the virus both here at home and abroad. Our most powerful weapon in this fight is safe and effective vaccines.”
Distributing vaccines around the world remains a daunting challenge. In a Page 1 Washington Post account October 12, Post correspondent Samantha Schmidt wrote an eyewitness account from Colombia, just to the south of the Caribbean Sea separating North and South America:
“A vaccination team with a serum to combat COVID-19 had spent an hour bouncing and bucking down a dirt road in Colombia and over train tracks when the van driver issued a warning. The toughest part of the drive was still to come. The perilous rescue mission was scheduled to take five hours, but this could now grow to ten.
“The mission was the only way to reach indigenous families who live in this northern province of Colombia,” Samantha Schmidt wrote, “where there are no paved roads, no electricity, no running water, and certainly no access to the vital COVID-19 vaccines.”
Additional background on the situation in Colombia, likely similar to many crises in Africa and other continents with developing health care systems.
“It was late afternoon when the vaccination team finally reached the medical center in the Bahia Honda area of northern Colombia,” according to the Post. “A team of doctors and nursing assistants were eagerly awaiting our arrival.”
Their goal: to vaccinate at least ten local neighbors daily against COVID-19. But in arid northern Columbia, it is not always easy to find potential patients willing to receive the shots. But they persisted. Within five minutes, the vaccination team was able to find five local people willing to be injected. A long journey through the desert hills and surrounding villages searching for others needing the life-saving shots lay ahead.
Every life preserved this way is a testament to the heroic impact of male and female aid workers who strive to help. The scale of their task is beyond belief.
At the latest count, 45,000 Afghan refugees from northern Afghanistan have arrived in the United States since mid-August, many also needing help to avert even more casualties. My next PDC-PDAA posting will be a progress report on how they’re being aided in the United States.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More