Covid-19: ‘800 million is the target’ as Africa begins vaccination

As African countries begin vaccination of their citizens while others such as Nigeria make preparations to commence, Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Deputy Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has said that Africa needs to vaccinate up to 800 million people. This is the figure he says will be sufficient to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control.

Dr Ouma said this in a recent interaction with African journalists being trained by Thomson Reuters Foundation on Covid-19 reporting.

To bring this into context, this figure is far more than the entire populations of the United States, Canada, and UK combined.

Experts say that for herd immunity to be attained in a population, about 75 per cent of that population should be vaccinated.

Herd immunity is defined as the resistance to the spread of disease within a population-based on a pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals as a result of previous infection or vaccination.

Africa’s population has been put at 1.216 billion.

However, according to the Deputy Director, Africa CDC, the African Union in conjunction with African governments is targeting a supply of vaccines that will be sufficient for 60 per cent of the population in the first instance.

To this end, a number of manufacturers have been approached.

These include Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson.

According to a Reuters report, AU has so far secured around 670 million doses for its member states.

Dr Ouma, however, pointed out that having vaccines available was not all that mattered.

He said, “Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccination does!”

He added that the continent does have expertise and experience in vaccinating children.

The challenge that the covid-19 pandemic poses to the African continent is to transpose this expertise and experience to the vaccination of adults.

Nigeria’s preparations for vaccinating citizens

So far, the authorities in Nigeria at the Federal level have made arrangements for the distribution of 100,000 vaccines to the 36 states of the federation.

In the data released by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), the 36 states and FCT would, in the interim share 100,000 doses, while awaiting another consignment of 42 million free doses later.

This is inadequate for a country whose population is close to 200 million.

Therefore, some state governments are making arrangements to procure their own vaccines. For example, Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu said on state-owned TV that, “I have made contact with Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca. Developers of Moderna have written to us and we have written back to them.”

He added that the state did not plan to vaccinate its entire 20 million people.

“We don’t have to vaccinate the whole of 22 million people in Lagos. The plan is around ensuring that there is herd immunity and that typically speaks to 50 to 60 per cent of our population. That’s the target we need to really meet in vaccine rollout,” he stated.

The Oyo State governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, said the government was talking to Astra-Zeneca, in order to get COVID-19 vaccines for residents of the state.

Vaccines for the vulnerable

National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Bassey Okposen said that vaccine would be rolled out in four phases. 100,000 doses of the mRNA covid 19 vaccines are expected in the country by end of January.

According to a report by the Nigerian Tribune, he said that if only 100,000 doses of the mRNA covid 19 vaccines are received, the remaining healthcare workers will be immunized with non-mRNA vaccines in the second phase in 2021 alongside elderly above 50 years.

According to him, the 40 per cent of Nigerians that are expected to receive the vaccine in 2021 will include 1 per cent of health workers, 10 per cent of adults above age 50 years, 17 per cent of persons with comorbidities below 50 years and12 per cent of other risk groups.

Vaccines for the health workers and other frontline workers such as the police and Immigration officers are among the first to be vaccinated

Where Nigeria is on the curve

Statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) shows that in December 2020, there has been a rise in the number of new cases in the country. The highest figures so far are in this month of January 2021. Certainly, this indicates that the second wave is upon the country. The situation seems to have been aggravated by the easing of the lockdown in all the states.

If there is no strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as the use of facemasks and handwashing, the upward rise on the curve will only go steeper.

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