The World Health Organisation says countries in Africa should commence vaccination programmes in the coming weeks as the shipments of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX initiative for the continent begin.
WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, disclosed this at a press briefing on Thursday, assuring that COVID-19 vaccines will save thousands of lives in Africa and help economies and livelihoods to recover faster.
The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX initiative kicked off with deliveries to Ghana on Wednesday, marking the beginning of it’s global roll-out.
Under the initiative, 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India were shipped to Accra, Ghana.
Speaking at the briefing, Moeti said, “AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in Ghana yesterday [Wednesday] and have been scheduled to arrive in Cote d’Ivoire tomorrow [Friday], followed by 24 other countries in the region that have completed the pre-shipment requirements.
“These deliveries are expected in the coming weeks. The vaccines are being delivered by COVAX facility, which is co-led by Gavi, WHO and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations.
“It is a multilateral partnership that really aims at ensuring equity and access to vaccines, leaving no one behind.
“COVAX is aiming to deliver two billion COVID-19 vaccine doses globally in 2021, including around 600 million doses to African countries to cover the most-at-risk 20 percent of African populations, including frontline health workers, older population and adults with comorbidities.”
The WHO regional director noted that the African Union is also working very hard to mobilise and provide additional vaccines to countries.
“With these shipments and vaccines procured through other sources, more than half of the countries on the continent should have vaccination programmes underway in the coming weeks.
“This is a much-awaited leap forward for African countries that have spent months preparing from the sidelines while wealthier countries reached ahead with vaccination.
“While celebrating this feat of solidarity, there is still a tremendous need for more investments in vaccine equity, including sharing of surplus doses by wealthier countries.
“It cannot be stressed enough. No country is safe, until all countries are safe. To end the pandemic, all countries must move forward together,” she said.
WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus had, on Wednesday, via the world health body’s official Twitter handle @WHO, accused high-income countries of affecting the COVAX deal through their request for additional vaccines.
Ghebreyesus had said, “Even if you have the money, if you cannot use the money to buy vaccines, having the money doesn’t mean anything.
“Some high-income countries who are actually approaching manufacturers to secure more vaccines which is affecting the deals with COVAX and even the amount that was allocated for COVAX was reduced because of this.
“One thing that I would ask the high-income countries before they ask the manufacturers or the private sector for additional vaccines, they should make sure whether their request affects the COVAX deal or not.
“It’s not the money,or it’s the vaccines. At the end of the day it’s the vaccination that matters.”
The Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib had during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing on Monday in Abuja, stated that the first batch of the four million AstraZeneca vaccines is set to arrive Nigeria soon.
“As of today, Purchase Orders have been raised by UNICEF Supply Division for the Astrazeneca vaccine. Under normal circumstances, with routine immunisation vaccines, it takes two weeks from when the Purchase Order is raised to when we receive the vaccine in Nigeria.
“However, because this is an emergency situation, we have been informed by UNICEF that this process will be fast-tracked to potentially ensure the vaccines arrive Nigeria within one week. As soon as we receive confirmation on date of arrival, we’ll inform Nigerians”, Shuaib had said.
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