CM – EAT TODAY: ANALYSIS: Covid-19: Despite Africa’s proactive stance, the vaccine pick is not getting smaller fast enough


The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Ivory Coast, Jean-Marie Yameogo, will receive the first injection of the Covid-19 vaccine on March 1, 2021 at a vaccination center in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast is one of the first countries to benefit from vaccines funded by the Covax system, which this year is expected to provide anti-Covid vaccines to 20 percent of the population of nearly 200 participating countries and territories. (Photo: EPA-EFE / LEGNAN KOULA)

Africa’s vaccination campaign against Covid-19 is gaining momentum in almost all countries. This follows an ongoing battle for vaccines for a variety of reasons, including hoarding by richer countries and a lack of finance to source large doses. There was also the failure of the Covax voluntary program in connection with India’s decision to stop vaccine exports from the Serum Institute of India in response to its own Covid-19 crisis.

However, vaccine shipments to Africa have in recent years gained weight for two months. Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Zimbabwe have the highest vaccine doses on the continent (Figure 1). Eritrea is still closed to the idea of ​​introducing vaccines, and Burundi has only recently started accepting vaccines.

Source: Africa CDC (Official Regional Cooperation Center and Member State Reports of 15.09.2021)
(Click the map for the full size image)

The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that as of Aug 9, all of Africa will have given a meager 144.5 million doses and about 111.3 Millions have been administered. In the last week of August, the continent delivered 13 million vaccinations, three times more than the previous week – a factor attributable to the increased vaccine supply.

While this is an improvement, only about 3% of the 1.3 billion were received African residents fully vaccinated and only six countries vaccinated 30% of their population with at least one dose (Figure 2). This is in stark contrast to the 62% to 91% in most industrialized countries.

Source: Africa CDC (Official Regional Cooperation Center and Member State Reports of 15.09.2021)
(Click on the graphic for the full size image) Despite these advances, the vaccination gap is not narrowing fast enough to prevent new varieties from emerging and allow economic recovery from the debilitating effects of the pandemic. In fact, at the current pace, Africa is unlikely to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of fully vaccinating 30% of its people by the end of the year.

A global consensus is needed on how to meet the global South’s vaccine needs can – and Africa is taking an increasingly proactive stance to achieve this.

The African Union (AU), under the auspices of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (Avat) and member countries, came together in August 2020 to pool resources and purchase vaccines with funding from the African Export-Import Bank. As part of the March 2021 procurement agreement to purchase 400 million units of the Johnson & Johnson / Janssen (J&J) vaccine, monthly deliveries to African countries have accelerated.

Another success is the partial production of the J&J vaccine by the South African company Aspen Pharmacare. In the “fill and finish” process, the vaccine substance is now bottled from Europe in South Africa and shipped to other African destinations. This already improves access and shortens the vaccine distribution chain. And it is probably a better alternative to promote richer countries to support a waiver of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips).

In addition to the Avat Agreement, many African nations are acquiring also doses bilaterally from wealthier countries through direct purchase or through donations sometimes channeled through Covax’s vaccine sharing program.

African countries are working – collectively and individually – hard to get better access to vaccines . However, the equitable sharing and distribution of vaccines should be a priority for all nations. The continued stockpiling and nationalism of vaccines could have a negative impact on the development of Covid-19 worldwide, but particularly in Africa and the many developing countries that do not have access to vaccines for their citizens.

Apart from the likelihood that As new variants emerge, this scenario bodes ill for the economic recovery of African countries – many of which are facing subdued economic prospects after Covid-19. The supply and distribution of vaccines to Africa and the global south needs to be accelerated.

The first step is to create a global framework to mitigate unfair competition in the purchase of and access to vaccines. Second, Covax should be restructured, with African countries at the forefront to defend funding pledges and pledges from wealthier countries. This would change the current voluntary system and reduce Africa’s dependence on richer nations.

There are enough doses of vaccine to get around. The United States will have about 500 million to a billion vaccine doses surplus by the end of the year, and Canada has vaccines for 2022 and 2023 with options to extend through 2024. Countries have the right to protect their citizens, but doses storing when most of the world’s population is not vaccinated is counterproductive. Nobody is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe.

Third, global vaccine politics must be coherent. The European Union (EU) does not recognize the India-made version of AstraZeneca (Covishield) for travel (although some EU countries do so now) – but has approved the UK version. Such inconsistency undermines confidence in vaccines in developing countries. It hinders the uptake of AstraZeneca, especially for those planning future trips, even though other vaccines are not yet readily available in much of Africa and other developing regions. Fourth, greater financial support from global institutions such as the World Bank and Enable the International Monetary Fund to independently purchase and import Covid-19 vaccines for African countries. After all, the continent needs more vaccination centers and awareness campaigns to distinguish vaccine facts from myths. This would help meet the goal of fully vaccinating 30% of the African population by the end of 2021.

A more coherent global framework is needed to tackle the pandemic effectively. Despite the challenges, Africa shows resilience and cooperation by pooling resources and joining forces to increase the supply and distribution of vaccines. But it shouldn’t be so difficult for the continent or any other region to get life-saving vaccines during a pandemic that affects us all. DM

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