COVAX plans to send millions of Covid-19 vaccines to Africa in February

By - World Healthcare Journal

COVAX plans to send millions of Covid-19 vaccines to Africa in February

The global vaccine initiative known as COVAX has announced its aim to begin shipping millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa in February.

The initiative, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), aim to start shipping nearly 90m Covid-19 vaccine doses this month, in what will be Africa’s largest-ever mass vaccination campaign.

This initial phase of doses will support countries to immunise 3 per cent of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021.

As production capacity increases, and more vaccines become available, the aim is to vaccinate at least 20 per cent of the population in Africa by the end of 2021 - requiring more than 600m doses.

At this time, the main vaccine being used by the organisation is the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Africa has watched other regions start Covid-19 vaccination campaigns from the side-lines for too long. This planned roll-out is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe,” he added.

However, the roll-out of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is subject to the vaccine being listed for emergency use by WHO. At present, WHO is reviewing the vaccine - but the outcome of the review is expected to be released soon.

Amid surging demand for Covid-19 vaccines, the shipments will be based on the production capacities of vaccine manufacturers and the readiness of countries. Recipient countries are required to submit finalized and verified deployment and rollout plans to receive vaccines from the initiative.

In addition to the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries - Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia.

This vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing, but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at -70 degrees Celsius - proving a large logistical challenge.

Furthermore, to access an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine, countries were required to submit proposals. Thirteen African countries submitted proposals, and were evaluated by a multi-agency committee based on current mortality rates, new cases and trends, and the capacity to handle the ultra-cold storage requirements of the vaccine.

“This announcement allows countries to fine-tune their planning for Covid-19 immunisation campaigns. We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalize their national vaccine deployment plans. 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,” says Dr Moeti.

In addition to COVAX efforts, the African Union has secured 670m vaccine doses for the continent, which will be distributed in 2021 and 2022 as countries secure adequate financing. The African Export-Import Bank will facilitate payments by providing advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2bn to the manufacturers on behalf of countries.

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