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African countries in line to get COVID-19 vaccine doses

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-02-09 19:55

Countries across the African continent are making efforts to acquire COVID-19 vaccines even though they have to compete with wealthier nations who scooped up huge amounts of the vaccines mostly by pre-ordering millions of doses.

According to the United Nations Regional Office for Africa, all 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest in COVAX, a global initiative that is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the World Health Organization.

While encouraging African countries to step up their preparations for receiving and administering the vaccines, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, hailed the efforts made to plan the expected roll-out.

"Africa has watched other regions start their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns from the sidelines for too long. This planned roll-out is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines. We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe," Moeti said last week.

"This announcement allows countries to fine-tune their planning for COVID-19 immunization campaigns. We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalize their national vaccine deployment plans. We cannot afford to waste a single dose," she added.

In Rwanda, reports indicate the country expects to get over 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the first and second quarter of 2021 from the COVAX facility. Through the facility, Rwanda has been allocated 996,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 102,960 of the Pfizer one.

According to country-by-country vaccine distribution figures released by the COVAX initiative on Thursday, Kenya will receive 4,176,000 doses as Uganda receives 3,552,000 doses. Furthermore, Somalia will receive 1,224,000, while Sudan is set to receive 3,396,000 doses, compared to 864,000 to be distributed to South Sudan.

Ethiopia is the country that is set to receive the highest number of doses in the region, with 8,928,000. Meanwhile, Tanzania is the only country in the region that has not ordered the vaccine and is not on the list of the countries recognized by the COVAX facility.

In South Africa, the government is trying to find a new strategy to fight COVID-19 after suspending vaccinations using the Oxford-made AstraZeneca vaccine just a week after the country received its first 1 million doses.

This is after researchers suggested that the vaccine had only 10 percent efficacy in preventing mild or moderate infections by the new variant first seen in the country. Reports indicate that scientists who conducted a small-scale trial of the vaccine's efficacy said it showed very little protection against mild to moderate infection.

Salim Abdool Karim, South Africa's co-chairman of the ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19, told those at a WHO briefing yesterday that South Africa now plans to give 100,000 people the AstraZeneca vaccine to ascertain how well it protects against severe disease, hospitalization and death caused by the variant.

"We don't want to end up with a situation where we vaccinate a million people or 2 million people with a vaccine that may not be effective in preventing hospitalization and severe disease," Karim said.

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