By Asmau Ahmad
The World Health Organisation (WHO) through COVAX facility and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) are expected to deliver about 900 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa by 2021.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, disclosed this at WHO first online press briefing for 2021 on Thursday from its regional office for Africa, based in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
The director said WHO Regional Office for Africa through COVAX facility would deliver 600 million doses, while Africa CDC would secure 270 million doses of the vaccines.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO.
It aims at accelerating the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
“The COVAX facility, which is coordinated by GAVI, WHO and CEPI, aims to provide around 600 million doses for Africa in 2021. We expect the first doses to arrive by the end of March with large roll out by June.
“However, COVAX facility can only cover 20 per cent of Africa population so it is really wonderful to see the Africa Union efforts to secure provisional 270 million doses by the end of 2021 are achieving success.
“Together we will deliver 900 million doses this year and we know still more is needed,” Moeti said.
He said top priority for the Africa was to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccine.
The regional director added that it is unfortunate that so far, vaccine distribution has been inequitable, “but this is a massive undertaking that will take time.”
According to her, as COVID-19 cumulative cases in Africa top three million and daily case numbers exceed the first wave peak, the continent is now confronted with emerging variants of the virus. She said revamped public health measures were ever more critical to avert a runaway surge in infections that could stretch health facilities to the breaking point.
“An average of 25, 223 cases were reported each day between 28 December 2020 and 10 January 2021 in Africa, which is nearly 39 per cent higher than the July 2020 two-week peak of 18, 104 daily average cases.
“Yet numbers may rise further in the coming days in the wake of travelling, gathering and festivities over Christmas and New Year holidays. Overall cases in the region have risen steadily since mid-September 2020, with a steeper rise from late November, she said.
In addition, the regional director said a new variant of the virus called `501Y.V2’ was circulating widely in South Africa, accounting for most of the new infections during the second wave.
According to her, mutations of the virus are unsurprising as the more the pandemic spreads the higher the likelihood of changes.