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Africa's rollout gathers pace as more doses arrive

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-02-05 10:28

Workers load South Africa's first coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses as they arrive at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb 1, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

South Africa has become one of the first African countries to receive coronavirus vaccine, with President Cyril Ramaphosa hailing the arrival of the first doses on Monday.

"The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our country and across the world," Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.

South Africa has recorded more than 1.4 million COVID-19 infections and over 44,000 deaths-the most in Africa on both counts. It has become the fifth African nation to roll out vaccinations, after Morocco, Egypt, the Seychelles and Guinea.

Morocco has bought 2 million doses of a vaccine from AstraZeneca and 500,000 doses of the China-developed Sinopharm vaccine, official reports said. The North African country started vaccinations this week.

Egypt's program got underway on Sunday, with doctors and nurses the first to receive the Sinopharm jab. The Egyptian government said it has reserved more than 100 million doses from different providers.

In a recent webinar convened by Ramaphosa, who is also the current chairperson of the African Union, it was revealed that the COVID-19 African Vaccine Task Team has secured a provisional 270 million doses for African countries and has also received offers of an additional 400 million doses.

Advanced procurement

Ramaphosa said the African Export-Import Bank has been instrumental in working with the task team and the global COVAX facility in organizing an advanced procurement facility of $2 billion to enable African countries to deal with suppliers directly.

"The COVAX facility will provide 27 percent of vaccines for the continent. Choosing the pooled procurement route instead of only bilateral acquisition will enable African countries to access the lifesaving vaccines more speedily," Ramaphosa said.

John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said he wants to ensure a fast rollout of the vaccines. The biggest hurdles are financing and overcoming the logistical difficulties of vaccinating at scale, he said.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun said on Tuesday that China will supply the first batch of vaccine aid to 14 developing countries, and Zimbabwe is among them.

"Zimbabwe will be one of the first 14 countries to receive vaccine aid from China very soon," he said on Twitter.

Guo posted a statement from Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who said that China has been acting on its commitment of making China-developed COVID-19 vaccines a global public good.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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