U.S donates 25 million COVID jabs to Africa through GAVI
Following close collaboration between the African Union (AU), COVAX and the United States, AU Member States are set to receive approximately 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to facilitate vaccination drive across the continent.
The donation targets at least 60 percent of the African population, following the pledge made by U.S President Joe Biden in May to share 80 million doses globally.
The first shipments has been scheduled for the coming days and will see nearly a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine delivered to Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.
Approximately 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to 49 African countries in the coming weeks.
“In partnership with the African Union and COVAX, the United States is proud to donate 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to 49 African countries. The Biden Administration is committed to leading the global response to the pandemic by providing safe and effective vaccines to the world. Working together, we can save lives and bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end,” said Gayle Smith, Coordinator for COVID-19 Recovery and Global Health, US Department of State.
All doses will be delivered by COVAX, which expects to deliver 620 million doses to Africa by the end of 2021, rising to 1 billion doses by the end of the first quarter of 2022.
This will contribute to the AU’s goal of 60 percent coverage.
With the third wave hitting Africa, the continent has seen COVID-19 cases reach one million in the shortest time since Africa confirmed her first case.
And as the continent continue to battle the virus, there has been a spike in the number of virus-related deaths and hospitals are getting overwhelmed.
In the past five weeks, fatalities have risen steeply with a 40 percent jump registered in the last one week.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), out of all the over 153,000 deaths recorded, Africa is now just 1 percent shy of the peak in fatalities reached in January this year.
“We’re going through as a continent a very difficult time at the moment. Not only the third wave but also the pose that was necessitated in our vaccination programs by the challenges in accessing vaccines supplie, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The high numbers have stretched hospital capacities with reports of inadequate health workers and supplies.
“We’ve seen hospital admissions in around 10 countries increase rapidly and at least 5 countries including S.A, Namibia and Zambia are facing shortages in ICU bed.”
South Africa and eSwatini have witnessed political unrest, with huge gatherings ignoring the health protocols.
In Ethiopia, the conflict in the northern region of Tigray has affected the provision of health services while Rwanda has gone into a 10-day lockdown in an effort to contain the virus.
“It’s in deed a very sad and unfortunate situation and the government has to brace itself and we in WHO will be preparing to see increase in the cases again and to support wherever the government may need to do to being the situation of the third wave under control.”
The donation from U.S will add on top of over 70 million COVID-19 vaccines thay the continent has received so far since March this year. Out of the 53 million doses administered, 18 million people have received their second dose. Despite low numbers compared to the global figures.
“We’re going to receive lot of new vaccines around quarter 3 and quarter 4. J and J Pfizer vaccines but also Moderna vaccines so we will have more choice but also more supplies coming to Africa,” said WHO Program Area Manager Immunization and Vaccine Development, Dr Richard MIHIGO.
Countries will now be looking at the shelf life of vaccines received after nine countries were forced to destroy nearly half a million vaccines that arrived with short expiry dates.