The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week Thursday that nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses negotiated through the COVAX facility will be shipped to Africa beginning from February.
A senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, 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 side-lines for too long,” Dr Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, was quoted as saying in a statement issued in Nairobi, Kenya.
According to 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.
Dr Moeti said the rollout of AstraZeneca/Oxford AZD1222 vaccine will be subject to its listing for emergency use by WHO and national regulatory bodies, after passing the efficacy and safety threshold.
She said the initial phase of 90 million doses will enable African countries immunise three per cent of their population at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) including health workers, the elderly and terminally ill in the first half of this year.
Furthermore, she said 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.
Dr Moeti said that nearly 320,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been allocated to four African countries including Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia.
According to Dr Moeti, there are plans to vaccinate at least 20 per cent of the African population by ensuring up to 600 million doses are available by the end of 2021.
Ordinarily, this should be good news for the continent and commendable efforts on the part of the WHO and the AU in getting vaccines for countries to vaccinate their citizens against the deadly COVID-19 disease.
But is it really the case? Is Africa being treated fairly and equitably in the distribution of the vaccine doses? We do not think so. While countries in Europe, United Kingdom, USA and parts of Asia are rolling out millions of the vaccines, Africa is standing by on the touchline watching as the disease spreads and kills its people and yet to undertake the critical immunisation of its citizens.
The Ghanaian Times is wondering why the continent is not part of the race to acquire the vaccine doses for its people and has to wait for the rich and powerful countries to collect all available vaccines before it gets to its turn .
The COVID-19 vaccines are meant to keep everyone safe and the more it delays in getting to the people, particularly the poorer countries the more people are likely to die from the disease.
It is, our candid opinion, therefore that the continent and its individual countries put in much more effort, preferably collectively, to find home grown remedies to support whatever assistance they are getting from abroad.
We need not be reminded that, we are racing against time and it is critical that the continent is not left behind in this abnormal time by ensuring that it gets equitable access to vaccines to keep its citizens safe from the pandemic