Africa needs 20m AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-July to deliver booster shots



 

Uganda will import five million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines next month after the discovery of new COVID-19 variants in the country, President Yoweri Museveni has said. In a televised address to the nation late Friday, Museveni said the vaccines will be used to vaccinate at least 80 per cent of the 5.5 million elderly. People below 50 years, with underlying medical conditions that are at high risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, will also be vaccinated. Uganda targets to vaccinate more than 21.9 million people who face the highest risk of the infection, including the health workers, teachers, social workers and security personnel, elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. “The government is working hard to ensure we bring another five million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine before the end of May to complete the threshold vaccination and ensure that those vaccinated before getting the second booster dose,’’ said Museveni. “Vaccines are the most effective intervention we have against COVID-19. “The government and partners are working hard to bring vaccines to most adult Ugandans to protect them and to support us to reopen the economy and get back all our children to school.’’ Henry Mwebesa, Director-General of Health Services, last week said Uganda is scheduled to receive some two million more doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in May through the COVAX facility. Uganda has so far received 964,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX vaccine sharing programme and the Indian government. As of April 16, a total of 220,893 people had been inoculated with the first jab of AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Health statistics. The country has reported the emergence of the highly transmissible COVID-19 variants which were first reported in Britain, South Africa and Nigeria. The ministry’s data showed that as of April 16, Uganda had registered a cumulative total of 41,340 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 40,898 recoveries and 338 deaths.

Africa requires at least 20 million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses in the next six weeks to enable the continent to deliver second shots to populations that received their first doses.

World Health Organisation (WHO) regional official said on Thursday.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said during a virtual press briefing hosted by WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.

Moeti added that the continent requires additional vaccine doses as a matter of urgency amid supply crunch that has stalled inoculation targeting high-risk groups.

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“As supplies dry up, dose-sharing is an urgent, critical and short-term solution to ensuring that Africans at the greatest risk of COVID-19 get the much-needed protection,’’ Moeti said in a statement.

Statistics from Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the continent has acquired 43.5 million vaccine doses and has administered 28.2 million as of Wednesday.

While saying that an additional 200 million doses of any of the WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 vaccines are needed to immunize 10 percent of the African population by September.

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Moeti said that he believes that the urgency to vaccinate a critical mass of the African population is informed by the emergence of highly contagious variants that threaten to overrun already fragile health systems.

According to Moeti, the continent is staring at the possibility of new surges hence the need to speed up immunization of vulnerable segments of the population like the elderly and terminally ill.

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She called upon wealthy nations to expedite the donation of extra vaccine doses to the COVAX facility to enable African countries to fully immunize citizens.

Moeti said WHO is helping African countries to establish structures for facilitating domestic manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in light of the global supply crunch.

Moeti said that 54 African countries have endorsed a resolution to strengthen local vaccine production through the transfer of knowledge, technology, and innovation alongside waiver of patents owned by multinational pharmaceutical firms.

Xinhua

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