Several African countries lack AstraZeneca vaccines to administer second doses after India bans exports due to crisis.
Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine within six weeks if those who have had their first shot are to get the second in time, the WHO said Thursday.
“Africa needs vaccines now,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement.
“Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.”
The WHO statement underlined the importance of respecting the recommended interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses to ensure a recipient’s prolonged 81-percent protection rate.
“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 percent of its population by September 2021,” the statement added.
— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) May 27, 2021
As of May 26, Africa had registered more than 4.7 million cases of coronavirus with nearly 130,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
Separately, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) appealed to the international community to provide the required number of vaccine doses to the continent considering this a “collective security issue”.
“We are not winning the vaccination battle in Africa,” Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said on Thursday during a weekly media briefing in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
“Forty-three million doses of vaccines have been acquired, [of which] 23 million doses have been administered,” he said.
Africa’s vaccination campaigns to battle COVID-19 are also facing delays because of the export ban imposed by India, the main supplier of the AstraZeneca vaccine to COVAX, the UN-backed scheme that aims to deliver more than two billion doses to 92 of the world’s poorest countries this year. India has halted vaccine exports as it grapples with a devastating resurgence of the disease.
‘Interest of all countries’ – French PM
Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron said shipping COVID-19 vaccines to Africa was not just a moral duty, but was also in Europe and the world’s interest, in order to prevent the emergence of new virus variants.
Speaking during a trip in Rwanda, Macron said that France was on track to deliver 30 million COVID-19 vaccination doses to Africa by year-end, that Germany would also deliver 30 million doses, and that collectively the European Union would deliver more than 100 million doses to Africa this year.
“To help Africa get vaccinated … is, first of all, a duty of solidarity, and it’s also quite simply …in the interest of all European countries, all the countries in the world,” said Macron during a visit to a vaccination centre in Kigali on the sidelines of a state visit.
He said that if all countries did not get vaccinations, the virus will continue to spread and develop new variants.