WHO, AU to Procure 900m Doses of COVID-19 Vaccines for Africa in 2021

0

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is collaborating with the African Union (AU) to secure 900 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of this year.

The WHO stated yesterday in an online press conference that the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccines would arrive in Africa in March under the auspices of COVAX and GAVI.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said that 600 million doses of vaccines to be sourced from COVAX in 2021 would cover about 20 percent of the African population.

Moeti added that another arrangement is being made under the auspices of the AU to secure 70 million doses of vaccines before the end of the year.

She said: “It is unfortunate that so far vaccine distribution is still being awaited in Africa. It is a massive undertaking. The global facility, which is being coordinated by COVAX and GAVI, aims to provide about 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa in 2021. We expect the first batch to arrive in March with a larger roll-out in June.

“Together we will delivery nearly 900 million doses of vaccines this year.”

She disclosed further that the WHO has developed a national vaccine deployment plan for countries and is also carrying out training on key aspects of vaccines development.

Moeti, however, said that the findings of the WHO have revealed significant gaps in the level of preparedness among countries in Africa.

The WHO’s regional director for Africa noted that just as getting the vaccines is an important aspect of dealing with COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring their safe handling is equally very important.

She said that African countries have recorded a daily average of 25,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks, adding that the continent was spared of much of the adverse effects of the deadly virus with relatively lower numbers of infections compared to what occurred in other parts of the world.

Moeti also spoke about the fears in relation to the emergency of the new COVID-19 variant in some African countries.

She explained that in as much as the advent of the COVID-19 variant is a source of health concern, it has not generated a global public health danger in terms of severity.

She said the WHO is undertaking a further study into the variants and will be monitoring the mutations of COVID-19 virus as time goes on.

Africa, according to her, began the year with a fresh threat of COVID-19 with an average daily count of 25,000 new cases and expressed sadness that the virus has so far claimed 22,000 lives in the continent.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who featured at yesterday’s online press conference, said that Nigeria is not yet at risk of the new COVID-19 variant.

Ihekweazu said the new COVID-19 variant could only pose a major threat if it is discovered to be having serious impact or causing a spike in spread of the disease in the country.