Managing Director of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), a distribution scheme for the coronavirus jabs, Aurelia Nguyen, has said that the alliance will deliver 520 million doses to Nigeria and other African countries by the end of this year, with supplies ramping up from September after delays caused by Indian export restrictions.
Africa marked its worst pandemic week ever, surpassing the second wave peak during the seven days ending on July 4, 2021, rising for seven consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave on May 3, 2021.
During the week, more than 251,000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on the continent, amounting to a 20 per cent increase over the previous week and a 12 per cent jump from the January peak, with 16 African countries now in resurgence.
But after almost grinding to a halt in May and early June, vaccine deliveries from the COVAX facility are gathering momentum, with more than 1.6 million doses delivered to Africa through COVAX in the past two weeks.
So far, 66 million doses have been delivered to Africa, including 40 million doses secured through bilateral deals, 25 million COVAX-supplied doses and 800 000 doses supplied by the African Union African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
Reuters quoted Nguyen as saying at a news conference Thursday organised by the World Health Organisation’s Africa region, that the scheme had delivered around 25 million doses to 44 African countries so far, but that she was not happy with progress.
In March, the CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi, one of the organisations co-leading COVAX, had said the aim was to supply Africa, whose total population is 1.3 billion, with 720 million doses in 2021.
But later that month India suspended vaccine exports, deepening problems for COVAX, which is dependent on doses from the Serum Institute of India, which is one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers and has been producing AstraZeneca shots.
Nguyen said COVAX had been in talks with the Indian government and Serum Institute and that it was factoring in a resumption of supplies “towards the later part of the year” although the situation was still fluid.
By the end of the first quarter of 2022, COVAX aims to supply nearly 850 million vaccine doses to the African continent, which has some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates worldwide.
The new target is enough to protect up to 30 per cent of the population of every African country that qualifies for subsidised doses under COVAX’s so-called Advance Market Commitment, Nguyen added.
African countries will receive doses from COVAX’s portfolio of nine vaccines, which as well as AstraZeneca include shots developed by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna.
Addressing the same conference, South Africa-based Professor Tulio de Oliveira, a genomics expert, said the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant was spreading rapidly throughout Africa, accounting for roughly three-quarters of the genomes sequenced on the continent recently and driving up deaths. “More than ever it’s time to increase vaccination,” he said.
Africa’s top public health official, John Nkengasong, said separately that only 1.2 per cent of the continent’s population had been fully vaccinated.
He said the situation in Senegal and Ghana, which are running low on COVID-19 vaccine supplies, was not unique owing to the COVAX delays, but that a U.S. donation of 15 million doses would soon start to be distributed via the facility.
The African Union’s vaccine task team will also start rolling out seven million Johnson & Johnson shots next week, Nkengasong said.
So far, Nigeria has only received roughly four million doses which is like a drop in the ocean for it’s over 200 million people.
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja with agency report