Africa urgently needs 20 million second doses of COVID-19 vaccine – WHO

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May 27, 2021 – Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the next six weeks to get second doses to all who received the first dose within the 8-12-week interval between doses recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

A single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine gives around 70% protection for at least 12 weeks. Data on the protection from one dose after 12 weeks is limited, however, COVID-19 antibodies have been found in the body up to 6 months after one dose. The full course provided with a 12-week interval gives 81% protection for an extended period.

Vaccination COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped by the COVAX Facility head to Ghana, marking beginning of global rollout
On 24 February 2021, staff unloads the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
The shipment with 600 doses of the vaccine also represents the beginning of what should be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. The COVAX Facility plans to deliver close to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year. This is an unprecedented global effort to make sure all citizens have access to vaccines.
Anne-Claire Dufay UNICEF UNICEF Representative in Ghana and WHO country representative Francis Kasolo said in a joint statement:
After a year of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 80,700 Ghanaians getting infected with the virus and over 580 lost lives, the path to recovery for the people of Ghana can finally begin.
“This is a momentous occasion, as the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Ghana is critical in bringing the pandemic to an end,”
These 600,000 COVAX vaccines are part of an initial tranche of deliveries of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine licensed to the Serum Institute of India, which represent part of the first wave of COVID vaccines headed to several low and middle-income countries.
“The shipments also represent the beginning of what should be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. The COVAX Facility plans to deliver close to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year. This is an unprecedented global effort to make sure all citizens have access to vaccines.
“We are pleased that Ghana has become the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility. We congratulate the Government of Ghana – especially the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, and Ministry of Information – for its relentless efforts to protect the population. As part of the UN Country Team in Ghana, UNICEF and WHO reiterate our commitment to support the vaccination campaign and contain the spread

In addition to this urgent need, another 200 million doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed COVID-19 vaccine are needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10% of its population by September 2021. This follows a call made by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the World Health Assembly, WHO’s governing body earlier this week for all Member States to support a massive vaccination push.

To date, 28 million COVID-19 doses of different vaccines, have been administered in Africa, which represents less than two doses administered per 100 people in Africa. Globally, 1.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered.

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“As supplies dry up, dose-sharing is an urgent, critical and short-term solution to ensuring that Africans at the greatest risk of COVID-19 get the much-needed protection,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Africa needs vaccines now. Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.”

“It’s too soon to tell if Africa is on the cusp of a third wave. However, we know that cases are rising, and the clock is ticking so we urgently appeal to countries that have vaccinated their high-risk groups to speed up the dose-sharing to fully protect the most vulnerable people.”

France is the first country to share COVID-19 vaccines from its domestic supply, donating over 31 000 doses to Mauritania, with another 74 400 set for imminent delivery. France has pledged to share half a million more doses with six African countries in the next few weeks.

The European Union and its Member States have pledged over 100 million doses for low-income countries by the end of 2021. The United States of America has pledged to share 80 million doses with lower-income countries, and other high-income countries have expressed interest in sharing vaccines. Expediting these pledges is crucial and the COVAX Facility is a proven tool for swift delivery.

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African countries that are unable to use all their vaccines are sharing them across the continent. While this prevents vaccine wastage, redistributing doses is costly and countries must roll out all available doses as soon as possible. WHO is working closely with countries to improve vaccine rollout by optimizing delivery strategies and increasing uptake.

In the longer term, Africa must boost its manufacturing capacity for vaccines. Yet there is no quick-fix and putting the policies, processes and partnerships in place may take years. Intellectual Property waivers are a crucial first step but must come alongside the sharing of expertise and critical technologies.

More than 100 WHO Member States, including 54 African countries are co-sponsoring a draft resolution led by Ethiopia which is being presented at this week’s World Health Assembly.

The resolution aims to strengthen local production, promote technology transfers and innovation, and consider the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and intellectual property rights through the lens of boosting local production.

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WHO is helping the African Member States to lay the groundwork to build up vaccine manufacturing capacity. Around 40 African countries joined a recent WHO training to build manufacturing capacities and WHO is working with the African Union to support the African Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa, supporting feasibility studies and potential technology transfers on request, sharing expertise and helping forge crucial partnerships.

Dr Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Honorable Semano Henry Sekatle, Minister of Health, Lesotho, and Her Excellency Stéphanie Seydoux, Ambassador for Global Health, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France. Also on hand to answer questions were Dr Richard Mihigo, Coordinator, Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr Nsenga Ngoy, Emergency Response Programme Manager, WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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