COVID 19: Lessons for LMICs

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly challenged health systems in virtually every country but responses and outcomes have varied widely. Health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICS) have peculiar challenges, most of which predated the pandemic. Low- and middle-income countries have had to deal with a relatively regular scourge of infectious diseases that range from longstanding public health burdens like malaria, cholera, and typhoid, to relatively newer or re-emerging diseases like Ebola, Zika and Lassa. The COVID 19 pandemic surged through most countries of the world leaving devastating loss of lives behind. However, considerable differences were observed in responses employed all over the world and the severity of the pandemic varied across populations. The relatively constant alert many of these LMICs’ health systems operate on could have provided policy makers a more efficient and relatively more effective context to respond appropriately to the rapidly changing developments and information in the early days of the pandemic.

The inadequacies of most LMICs were largely demonstrated in the areas of vaccine and therapeutic development. Vaccine nationalism by most Western countries involved in COVID vaccine developments largely restricted export of these vaccines such that by April 2021, low-income countries had received only 0.2% of the 700 million vaccines administered worldwide despite the existence of the global vaccine initiative COVAX. This demonstrates that global solidarity initiatives are currently not inviolable and should be strengthened and also that these countries need to vastly improve capacity in health science and technology.

The purpose of our study is to explore the political, social, cultural and economic realities of LMICs which may explain the effectiveness or otherwise of control measures, challenges with vaccine purchase and distribution and lessons that may prepare them to better handle future outbreaks.

About author: Oreoluwa Ademola-Popoola is a final year medical student in the University of Ibadan and the president of Polygeia, Ibadan.

This blog post was prepared by members of the Polygeia Ibadan Branch.