COVID-19 vaccines: Africa in danger, may be left behind ― WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned, on Thursday, that Africa is in danger of being left behind in accessing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

In a statement released yesterday, the WHO said Africa needs timely access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

But it stated that the continent is in danger of being left behind as countries in other regions strike bilateral deals, driving up prices.

The statement said: “While the development and approval of safe and effective vaccines less than a year after the emergence of COVID-19 is a stunning achievement, Africa is in danger of being left behind as countries in other regions strike bilateral deals, driving up prices.”

It pointed out that as of early this week 40 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in 50 mostly high-income countries.

However, in Africa, Guinea is the sole low-income nation to provide vaccines and to date, these have only been administered to 25 people. Seychelles, which is a high-income country, is the only one on the continent to start a national vaccination campaign.

“We first, not me first, is the only way to end the pandemic. Vaccine hoarding will only prolong the ordeal and delay Africa’s recovery. It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

“Health workers and vulnerable people in Africa need urgent access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” Moeti added.

It revealed that the COVAX Facility – which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and WHO – has secured 2 billion doses of vaccine from five producers, with options for over 1 billion more doses.

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Also, according to Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director, Country Programmes, GAVI, “COVAX is on track to start delivering vaccine doses and begin ensuring global access to vaccines.

“This massive international undertaking has been made possible thanks to donations work towards dose-sharing deals and deals with manufacturers that have brought us to almost 2 billion doses secured. We look forward to rollout in the coming weeks.”

In Africa, the coalition has committed to vaccinating at least 20% of the population by the end of 2021 by providing a maximum of 600 million doses based on two doses per individual disbursed in phases.

An initial 30 million doses are expected to start arriving in countries by March with the aim of covering 3 per cent of the general population, prioritising mainly healthcare workers and other priority groups and then expanding to cover additional vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

Most of the doses are expected to arrive in the second half of the year. These timelines and quantities could change if candidate vaccines fail to meet regulatory approval or production, delivery and funding face challenges.

To make sure that vaccines are transported and stored adequately to remain effective, WHO, Gavi, UNICEF and other partners are working with countries to support their readiness to receive vaccines by mapping existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity as well as providing technical support for countries to be ready to receive and manage the vaccines.

According to the WHO vaccine introduction readiness assessment tool, African nations are on average 42% ready for their mass-vaccination campaigns, which is an improvement on the starting point of 33 per cent two months ago. However, there is still a long way to go to reach the desired benchmark of 80%.

As the largest vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than 2 billion doses annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries, UNICEF is coordinating and supporting the procurement, international freight and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines for the COVAX Facility.”







COVID-19 vaccines: Africa in danger, may be left behind ― WHO

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