Africa’s vaccination campaigns to battle COVID-19 are facing significant delays because of the export ban imposed by India as it grapples with a devastating resurgence of the disease, Africa’s top health official has said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India was to be an integral part of the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income nations.
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India’s deadly crisis and its decision to halt all exports of the vaccines it produces had badly affected Africa’s mass vaccination drive, which was already lagging behind many other parts of the world, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday.
Several African countries had administered all the AstraZeneca vaccines they received, expecting new deliveries in order to give people their second dose, said Nkengasong, in his weekly news briefing.
But as a result of India’s ban on exports, those countries do not have AstraZeneca vaccines to give people their second doses.
“There is a likelihood that, given what is going on in India, there will be a significant delay,” said Nkengasong, who suggested using other vaccines.
“Countries should be looking at options of how to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccines that are available through the African Union’s vaccine acquisition task team as an alternative, which is a single-dose vaccine,” he said.
The continent has more than 4.7 million confirmed cases of infections including 127, 000 deaths recorded since the virus outbreak, which accounts for 3 percent of global infections and 4 percent of global deaths, said Nkengasong.
South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Egypt together account for about 60 percent of all infections recorded in the continent.
A little more than 56,000 cases have been recorded in the last week, a 6 percent decrease of new infections compared with the previous week, he said.
Nkengasong said nine African countries have detected the variant that is now dominant in India.
“The way this virus circulates and transmits suggests that it is a question of time before this variant will be spreading more extensively across the continent,” said Nkengasong.