Less than 0.1 per cent of the COVID-19 vaccines administered worldwide, so far, were administered in Africa, the United Nations has said. This is despite the continent making up about 20 per cent of the global population.
On Sunday, the UN said over 70 million doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far globally.
But less than 20,000 doses of these vaccines were administered in Africa, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a tweet on Sunday night.
Mr Guterres said a wide vaccination campaign is needed to prevent global immunity gaps which could put everyone at risk.
“More than 70 million #COVID19 vaccine doses have been administered so far. Less than 20,000 of these were on the African continent,” he said.
“A global immunity gap puts everyone at risk. We need a global vaccination campaign that reaches everyone, everywhere.”
Global health experts had warned that Africa will be the last region to get enough supplies of the doses of the much-needed vaccine for the highly contagious disease which is spreading rapidly across the globe.
A coalition of organisations and activists, dubbed The People’s Vaccine Alliance, found that “rich nations, representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population, had bought up more than half (53 per cent) of all the most promising vaccines,” the BBC reported.
Canada topped the chart, according to the data by analytics company, Airfinity, “with enough doses to vaccinate each Canadian five times.” Much of that demand has to be met before other countries can have a turn.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned against inequality in COVID-19 vaccines distribution worldwide, hence the establishment of a global mechanism established last April, known as the COVAX Facility to ensure all countries have access to vaccines.
“Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals, going around COVAX, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue. This is wrong,” WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said.
Most African countries, including Nigeria, are banking on benefitting from the COVAX programme, which was set-up to divide over a billion doses of vaccines across 92 low-and middle-income countries.
The facility promised access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population with an initial supply beginning in the first quarter of the year to immunise three per cent of their population.
But whether the COVAX facility is able to deliver vaccines as promised or not, African countries must look for other alternatives to vaccinate at least 50 per cent of their population to reach herd immunity.
It is also expecting ‘free’ 42 million doses of other approved vaccines in the second phase through the COVAX facility.
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Many African countries experiencing spikes in infection rates are also turning to Russia, India, and China despite scepticism about some of the vaccines produced by those countries.
Health experts said Russia and China rolled out their vaccines without phase 3 clinical trial results that confirm the vaccine effectiveness.
Sinovac, a Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company, is behind CoronaVac, an inactivated vaccine from China. It works by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response.
The Sinovac vaccines have been found to be 50.4 per cent effective in Brazilian clinical trials, according to the latest results released by researchers, the BBC reported.
Morocco has ordered 65 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, another vaccine from China, and AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute India.
According to Fintech Zoom Africa, South Africa said it also made a deal with Serum Institute India and will be getting 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for its health workers this January. Guinea is testing the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V and has ordered 2 million doses.
Most of these vaccines from China, India and Russia are more convenient for Africa and developing countries in terms of purchase, storage and distribution costs.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, for instance, had lower interim efficacy results, but offer the best possibility for distribution in Nigeria because the temperature required is not as low and manufacturers can produce it at a lower price.
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