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14.01.2021 Africa

Africa CDC says countries must act fast to prepare for Covid-19 vaccines

By AFP
A volunteer gets the jab in a South African coronavirus vaccine trial.  By SIPHIWE SIBEKO (POOL/AFP/File)
LISTEN JAN 14, 2021
A volunteer gets the jab in a South African coronavirus vaccine trial. By SIPHIWE SIBEKO (POOL/AFP/File)

African governments must take urgent steps to prepare for distribution of coronavirus vaccines, the continent's health watchdog said Thursday, after the African Union (AU) announced it had secured 270 million doses.

"We cannot wait. This is not a polio or measles vaccination. We have to do it quick. Our economies are down, our people are dying," John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a press conference.

"There's absolutely no reason for accelerated preparations not to occur," he added.

The AU deal announced Wednesday is intended to benefit countries unable to finance their own immunisation campaigns.

Governments will be able to make financing arrangements through the African Export-Import Bank that could allow for instalment payments over a five-year period.

The doses -- to be supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson -- will complement vaccines secured via Covax, the globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort.

At least 50 million doses secured under the AU deal are expected to be available from April through June.

But Nkengasong said member states needed to act fast to organise storage sites in major cities, train health workers, secure supplies like needles and create effective systems to record who has received doses.

He said governments would be able to start ordering vaccines through an AU platform in the coming days.

Africa has recorded around 3.1 million Covid-19 cases, or 3.5 percent of the global total, and around 75,000 deaths, or 2.4 percent of the global total, according to Africa CDC data.

But there has been an average weekly increase in cases of 18 percent over the past month, with significant rises in southern and western Africa in particular.

Roughly 30,000 new cases are being recorded across Africa each day, compared to 18,000 during the continent's first wave last year, Nkengasong said.

The Africa CDC has set a target of vaccinating 60 percent of Africans against Covid-19 in 2021 and 2022.

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