Africa

Vaccine shortage increases risk of COVID-19 resurgence

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Vaccine shortage increases risk of COVID-19 resurgence

With doses of COVID -19 vaccine bound for Africa from the Serum Institute of India delayed for the foreseeable future, slow vaccine deployments and new variants making inroads, the risk of a new wave of infections in Africa remains high.

Delays and vaccine supply shortages are pushing African countries to slip further behind the rest of the world in COVID-19 vaccine deployment and the continent now accounts for just 1% of vaccines administered globally, up from 2% it a few weeks ago.

COVID-19 vaccine deployments have been exemplary in some African countries, but about half, or 19 million, of the 37 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine received in Africa have been administered so far, country reports show Africans.

Initial COVAX deliveries to 41 African countries have been staged since early March, but nine countries have administered less than a quarter of the doses they have, and 15 countries have given less than half. Eight countries have administered all of their doses of COVAX.

“As we call for equity in vaccines, Africa must also give up and make the most of what we have. We have to put all the doses we have in people’s arms, ”said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa. “It’s a race against time and the virus. In view of the limited supply, we recommend that countries prioritize the administration of the first dose to as many high-risk people as possible as soon as possible. “

Modeling suggests that vaccinating more people in the highest priority population groups with a single dose instead of vaccinating half that number with two doses will significantly reduce death rates.

Africa’s immunization coverage is the lowest of any region in the world. While in the world, 150 doses of the vaccine have been administered per 1,000 people, in sub-Saharan Africa it is around 8 doses per 1,000 people. Low immunization coverage puts African countries at higher risk of a massive upsurge in cases.

Vaccine patent exemption could be a game-changer

South Africa and India are leading efforts to temporarily waive patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines and drugs at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The United States has offered its support to relinquish intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines.

“It could be a game-changer for Africa, unlock millions of more doses and save countless more lives. We applaud the leadership shown by these countries and urge others to support them at the WTO, including on life-saving therapies. We hope that negotiations will be concluded quickly so that we can accelerate the manufacture and deployment of safe and effective vaccines. No country is safe until all countries are safe, ”said Dr Moeti

COVAX and WHO are exploring all options to mitigate the impact of the global vaccine shortage , including supporting the reallocation of excess doses, boosting manufacturing, and encouraging suppliers with additional capacity to support and prioritize COVAX.

WHO assists African Member States to deploy COVID-19 vaccines with preparedness, coordination, training of healthcare professionals, providing policy and technical guidance and supporting communication to boost vaccine uptake .

New variants and risk of resurgence

New variants also put the continent at risk of a third wave. The B.1.617 variant first found in India has been reported in at least one African country. Strain B1.351, first found in South Africa, has spread to 23 African countries and strain B1.1.7, first found in the UK, has been found in 20 countries.

With the circulation of new variants, low levels of immunization, people’s fatigue to adhere to preventive measures and the relaxation of restrictions, the conditions are ripe for a resurgence.

“The tragedy in India doesn’t have to happen here in Africa, but we all need to be on the highest alert possible. Governments must maintain strong surveillance and detection systems, reassess and strengthen their treatment capacities, step up the supply of essential medicines, including medical oxygen, and ensure that there are sufficient beds for them. critically ill patients. Said Dr Moeti.

Africa’s preparedness

Although capacities have improved over the past year, hospital beds capable of providing oxygen and oxygen supplies remain limited in most countries. While most high-income countries around the world have at least two intensive care beds per 100,000 population, only nine countries in the African Region have so many.

WHO is helping countries increase their oxygen supplies by providing technical assistance to high-risk countries for the construction of oxygen production plants and by delivering more than 3,500 oxygen concentrators. WHO is working with professional medical and nursing associations across the continent to scale up critical care training in member states.

In Africa, there are now nearly 4.6 million cases of COVID-19 and 123,000 lives lost due to this virus. Over the past two weeks, there has been a slight decrease in cases after a six-week plateau. However, in nine countries the trend is increasing, notably in Angola, Cabo Verde, Cameroon and Eritrea.

Dr Moeti spoke at a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Thabani Maphosa, Director General, Country Programs, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Dr Richard Mihigo, Immunization and Vaccine Development Program Coordinator, WHO Regional Office for Africa and Dr Ngoy Nsenga, WHO COVID-19 Incident Manager were also present to answer questions.

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