Limited stocks, supply affecting supply –WHO
Less than two per cent of the 690 million Coronavirus (COVID- 19) vaccine doses administered to date globally have been administered in 45 African countries, including Nigeria, New Telegraph has learnt. It was learnt that most of the countries received the vaccines only five weeks ago and in small quantities. Through the COVAX Facility, 16.6 million vaccine doses – mainly AstraZeneca – have been delivered to African countries.
The WHO’s Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety, this week, concluded that the link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the occurrence of rare blood clots is plausible, but not yet confirmed. This follows the European Medicines Agency’s announcement that unusual blood clots should be listed as very rare side-effects of the vaccine.
New Telegraph also learnt that 45 African countries have so far received the vaccines, where 43 of them have begun vaccinations and nearly 13 million of the 31.6 million doses so far delivered have been administered. Investigations also revealed that the pace of vaccine rollout is, however, not uniform, with 93 per cent of the doses given in 10 countries, according to a statement issued by Ouma Onyango of Global Health Strategies. Vaccine rollout preparedness, including training of health workers, prelisting priority groups and coordination, has helped some countries quickly reach a large proportion of the targeted high-risk population groups such as health workers.
The 10 countries that have vaccinated the most have used at least 65 per cent of their supplies, according to investigation. Speaking on this, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said: “Although progress is being made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line.
“Limited stocks and supply bottlenecks are putting COVID-19 vaccines out of reach of many people in this region. Fair access to vaccines must be a reality if we are to collectively make a dent on this pandemic.” Once delivered, vaccine rollout in some countries has been delayed by operational and financial hurdles or logistical difficulties such as reaching remote locations.
WHO is supporting countries to tackle the challenges by reinforcing planning and coordination, advocating more financial resources as well as setting up effective communications strategies to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. The delays, it was learnt, are not only affecting vaccine delivery to priority targets, but expanding vaccinations to the rest of the population, some of whom have expressed eagerness to receive the doses.
WHO set a target to start vaccinating health workers and other priority groups in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021. Moeti said: “Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination catch-up, and the gap is widening. While we acknowledge the immense burden placed by the global demand for vaccines, inequity can only worsen scarcity.
“More than a billion Africans remain on the margins of this historic march to overcome the pandemic.” Among the almost 200 million individuals who have received the Astra- Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine around the world, cases of blood clots and low platelets is extremely low.
The Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety continues to gather and review further data while carefully monitoring prethe rollout of all COVID-19 vaccines. Based on current information, WHO considers that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks and that countries in Africa should continue to vaccinate people with the AstraZeneca vaccine. There have now been around 4.3 million COVID- 19 cases on the African continent and 114, 000 people have died.
For the past two months, the region has seen a plateau of around 74, 000 new cases per week. However, Kenya is experiencing a third wave and the epidemic is showing an upward trend in 14 other African countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Rwanda and Tunisia. Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference yesterday facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Dr. Abdelhakim Yahyane, Director of Population, Ministry of Health, Morocco, and Mr. Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. Also on hand to answer questions were Dr. Salam Gueye, Director, Regional Emergency Preparedness and Response, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr. Richard Mihigo, Immunisation and Vaccine Development Programme Coordinator, WHO Regional Office for Africa.