The current state of COVID-19 in Haiti remains dire. As of November 21st, the CDC has declared the situation in Haiti a Level 4, indicating a very high level of COVID-19. In the past month, there have been 1,362 reported new cases and 53 deaths. Compared to the record high of 4,263 new cases reported in June 2020, the current number of cases is lower but still worrisome.
Regarding the vaccine rollout, about 0.43% of the population is fully vaccinated, emphasizing the urgent need for greater vaccine accessibility. To understand the situation, it is important to acknowledge the multiple factors that contribute to this insufficient vaccine rollout. For context, Haiti receives its vaccines through the COVAX program facilitated by the United Nations. It was just this past July when Haiti received its first major vaccine shipment. As healthcare workers and the elderly were the first to be vaccinated, the general public anxiously awaits their turn. However, the logistical challenges with vaccine rollout were exacerbated by the recent August earthquake that killed at least 2,200 people. Hospitals were overwhelmed with not only taking care of patients with coronavirus but victims of the natural disaster as well. The crowded conditions of the emergency shelters also influenced the spread of the virus, leading to even more increased cases.
The political instability of the country creates another unique challenge to vaccine distribution. The rise in criminal organizations and violence following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise makes it difficult to organize massive vaccine campaigns that will be far-reaching. In an interview with NPR, Dr. Jeanne William Pape describes the situation at his hospital in Port-au-Prince. His hospital is located close to Village-de-Dieu, which is overrun by gang violence. The violence has gotten so severe that his hospital stopped opening its gates on the side closest to that city. Additionally, Dr. Pape describes how at the beginning of the pandemic he had seen coronavirus infected patients more sporadically, but with the rise in variants, his hospital is becoming more overwhelmed. It has gotten to the point where for the first time since the pandemic started, hospital staff had to move patients in need of more advanced treatment to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or Miami since Haiti lacks the necessary supplies and facilities to treat these patients. To add to the mix, many Haitians are hesitant to get the vaccine, largely in part due to the spread of misinformation on social media about side effects and the severity of the virus being downplayed. However, Dr. Pape believes that this hesitancy will diminish over time when the vaccine becomes more widely available. While the vast majority of Haiti’s citizens await vaccine distribution, they bear the brunt of the current COVID-19 situation as it continues to grow more intensified and complicated by these sociopolitical factors.
ITIAH Angels for Learning will continue to send infographics designed in French and English by Fellow Angel Nguyen. These infographics aim to educate the students and staff on proper guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infection.
Written by Serina Bernardo