A missionary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo travels to Ohio for a Covid vaccine after her mother fell ill

Lorraine Charinda received her first shot of the vaccine on October 23 and her second Wednesday. It was all thanks to an American church that raised money to bring her from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Columbus, Ohio, the church said.

“Everyone else, we’re still waiting,” Charinda told CNN, referring to the millions of people around the world who weren’t offered the opportunity to get vaccinated. “So it’s shocking to hear that vaccines can even expire and be discarded (away) just because people don’t want to be vaccinated. If we had that opportunity, really, it would help us a lot.”

About 1 in 1,000 people in the DRC received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine with 4 in 10,000 people fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data. The numbers are staggering, especially when compared to the more than 1 in 2 people in the United States who have been fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This inequality of vaccine across the world is apparent, especially in Africa. South America, North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania have all administered a single vaccine dose to more than 50% of their populations, while only 7% of Africa’s population has received a dose, the World Health Organization (WHO) director general said in October.

For Charinda, who works in a poor rural area called Kamina, she said they cannot find the vaccine anywhere in her province. She did not believe she was ready to receive the vaccine until she was at the airport.

“We’re always trying to look for the vaccine and we couldn’t find it,” the 32-year-old said. “And since there were no centers in the province, one had to go somewhere to keep looking for it.”

The experience of the pandemic is even more real for Charinda as she saw her mother fight Covid-19. She met her in Zambia when her mother became ill and she watched her struggle to breathe and fight fever in June 2021.

My uncle died of Covid-19 before he could get a vaccine in Kenya, and I got mine at a U.S. pharmacy.  This is what vaccine inequality looks like

“I really didn’t know how serious the pandemic was until I saw my mother lying next to me having those symptoms and difficulty breathing, coughing, fever,” she said. “It’s like being real when you look at it – it’s like looking you in the face.”

Her mother was ill for 7 to 10 days and sent Charinde back to the DRC so she would not get sick.

By some miracle, Charinda said, she did not get sick after meeting her mother.

“Every time I get a negative result, I look like, is this real?” she said. “I just look up at the sky and ask God if this is real.”

With tears in her eyes, Lorraine Charinda gets her second Covid vaccine on Wednesday.

Charinda’s vaccination moment came about because of The United Methodist Church’s Western Ohio Conference. The conference has had a relationship with the DRC since 2002 and Charinda began working there as a missionary through the General Board of Global Ministries in 2018, a spokesman for the Western Ohio Conference told CNN.

“She is a key leader and her work provides food and financial sustainability for communities across the DRC,” wrote spokeswoman Kay Panovec.

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The organization raised $ 4,000 within 24 hours to bring Charinda to the United States, she wrote. The money came from Western Ohio congregations and individuals and OhioHealth managed her shots, she added.

Charinda, a native of Zimbabwe, works as an agricultural specialist at Kamisamba Farm. She spoke passionately about the work she and others are doing to train residents on crop and animal production in one of the poorest provinces in the country.

Coming to the United States, Charinda said the approach Americans have to the vaccine is remarkable. She hopes her story can help others, she said.

“I encourage people to get vaccines. It’s really not a joke and it’s not about politics or what, but it’s something real,” she said. “You won’t notice it until your loved one gets sick, and the fear is that you don’t know that person will live.”

CNN’s Daniel Wolfe contributed to this report.

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