Charlotte urges support for vaccine fund campaign

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

A Ballymena woman who spent six months as a volunteer doctor at Mulanje District Hospital in southern Malawi last year has aked local people to consider the ‘bump It Forward’ campaign.

The Covid-19 pandemic was just beginning to sweep the world when Dr Charlotte Kane, daughter of West Church MInister, Rev. Daniel Kane found herself in Malawi - the fifth poorest nation in the world.

Malawi, with a population of almost 20million and only a handful of ventilators and very little PPE, was totally unprepared for the pandemic.

Charlotte assisted in the initial response to the first surge of the coronavirus as it spread throughout Malawi.

Currently, however, a second and more deadly wave is gripping the country with devastating consequences.

Charlotte said: “There are ten times more cases than during the first wave and a projected exponential increase in the infection rate.

“Access to hospitals and modern health care is extremely limited. Many covid-19 patients are being treated in temporary wards in carparks with oxygen cylinders and .

“There is no ability to give patients ventilatory support and take them into intensive care. Frontline healthcare workers risk their lives every day without adequate PPE and basic essentials such as hand gel.”

Another huge contrast with the UK is that it may be some time before poorer countries like Malawi can get the vaccine.

Here in the UK, the vaccine rollout has been a massive success with every person eligible for a free vaccination on the NHS. In poorer countries it will take much longer even for the vaccine to reach frontline health workers and the most vulnerable.

The “Economist” reckons that it will be 2023 at least before there is widespread vaccine roll out.

“This means that Malawians have at least two years to get through before there is effective vaccine cover. As the vaccine rolls out in advanced economies and many of us are starting to see a glimmer of hope that normality will return soon, the story in Malawi couldn’t be more different,” says Charlotte.

For health systems which are already woefully under-resourced, dealing with a second wave and a new strain of COVID-19 is a monumental challenge.

Hospitals and clinics are operating without the basics to protect their staff and patients. Basic levels of PPE and hand gels are in very short supply. Without this support fragile health systems will be decimated of their most precious resource at this time – healthcare workers as many are at home sick with COVID-19 or sadly dying. This comes at a time when hospitals are buckling under pressure and desperately need health workers to be able to work.

Charlotte now works as a doctor in Liverpool where the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has launched Bump It Forward campaign to help bring PPE and vaccines to Malawi, Kenya and Zimbabwe in an attempt to redress this massive health inequality.

The fund raising campaign actually came about as the result of a dream.

A Christian friend of Prof Melita Gordon, who works in Malawi fulltime as part of the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, dreamt about how she was to receive her vaccine free of charge and an idea emerged to ‘pay forwar’d the cost of that doseage to help people in countries who did not yet have vaccines. It was a very direct, personal idea that people in the UK who have had a vaccine get it for free while the people in Malawi don’t.

People love the idea of the BumpitForward campaign as it provides the opportunity to give back the cost of the vaccine in the order of £25.00 which they get it for free to help protect healthcare workers in Malawi, Kenya and Zimbabwe until the vaccine reaches them and save lives.

Dr. Kane says she would love to see a local response to the campaign after her experience at the Mulanje District Hospital.

Charlotte says: “The hospital is doing a great job, providing quality, safe and dignified care in extremely difficult circumstances.

“Just like in the UK, they have had staff shortages related to staff testing positive for COVID which has made things all the more difficult. The senior nurses have designed a protocol to make best use of reusable gowns and are very grateful to receive the PPE donation.

“I worked at Mulanje for the first six months of 2020 and they have been brilliantly supportive partners in MLW-led research into reducing deaths from sepsis and HIV associated TB, so it is a pleasure to be able to support our partners when they are in need of PPE at this time. #Bumpitforward is a wonderful campaign which I couldn’t recommend highly enough."

Give the equivalent of your Covid-19 vaccine to protect frontline staff in African countries who will have to wait for theirs. You can help keep them safe by donating the equivalent cost of your vaccine, to protect them until they can get theirs. There has already been a huge response to the Bump It Forward campaign and it continues to grow! It has now raised over £185,000.

For more information google : www.lstmed.ac.uk/bump-it-forward

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