JOHANNESBURG—Between treating patients at a hospital in northern Zambia, Kelvin Moonga closely followed the accelerating rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in countries like the U.S. and the U.K. Suffering from asthma and hypertension, Dr. Moonga knew he was at high risk if he caught the coronavirus as infections surged across the southern African nation.
“If the vaccine comes here, I’ll be the first one to get it,” Dr. Moonga told a friend.
But the 51-year-old surgeon, who was also a prolific author, never got his Covid-19 shot. He died on Jan. 24, days after testing positive for the virus and without saying goodbye to his wife and seven children, the youngest of whom had just turned 2 years old the day before.
The global scramble for Covid-19 vaccines has left developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa far behind rich nations in inoculating their citizens. That means months after colleagues in developed countries have been immunized—and as some governments are now making shots available to their entire populations—healthcare workers in nations like Zambia are still risking their lives in the fight against the pandemic.