WHO: Africa to receive 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in February
Testing a passenger at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, January 5, 2020. /CFP

Testing a passenger at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, January 5, 2020. /CFP

Nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses negotiated through the COVAX facility will be shipped to Africa beginning from February, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said Thursday.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the arrival of the vaccines will mark a critical milestone in the continent's quest to contain the pandemic. 

"Africa has watched other regions start COVID-19 vaccination campaigns from the sidelines for too long," Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi. "This planned rollout is a critical first step to ensure the continent gets equitable access to vaccines. We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe."

According to the WHO, COVAX on January 30 notified African countries about the planned shipment of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine doses to pave way for the largest ever mass inoculation drive in the continent.

Moeti said the rollout of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine codenamed AZD1222 will be subject to the vaccine being listed for emergency use by the WHO. The organization is currently reviewing the vaccine and the outcome of the review is expected soon.

She said the initial 90 million doses of vaccines will enable African countries to immunize three percent of their population at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, such as health workers and the elderly people.

According to Moeti, there are plans to vaccinate at least 20 percent of African population by ensuring up to 600 million doses by the end of 2021.

"We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalize their national vaccine deployment plans," said Moeti. "Regulatory processes, cold chain systems and distribution plans need to be in place to ensure vaccines are safely expedited from ports of entry to delivery. We can't afford to waste a single dose."

The African Union (AU) in a bid to complement COVAX efforts has secured 670 million vaccine doses to be distributed in the continent in 2021 and 2022.

Moeti said that nearly 320,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been allocated to four African countries including Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia.

She said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has already received WHO Emergency Use Listing and requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degree Celsius.

Richard Mihigo, coordinator for Immunization and Vaccine Development Program at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, said the continent is keen to procure different vaccine candidates and boost the fight against COVID-19.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

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