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Africa needs timely access to coronavirus vaccines: WHO

Health workers, vulnerable African need urgent access to safe, effective vaccines, says group’s regional director

Rodrigue Forku   | 21.01.2021
Africa needs timely access to coronavirus vaccines: WHO

YAOUNDE, Cameroon

Africa is at risk of being left behind as countries strike bilateral deals and drive up prices of coronavirus vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa region said Thursday.

The group’s Africa regional director for Africa said health workers and vulnerable Africans need urgent access to safe and effective vaccines.

“We first, not me first, is the only way to end the pandemic. Vaccine hoarding will only prolong the ordeal and delay Africa's recovery,” Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement. “It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe.”

African nations are on average 42% ready for mass vaccination campaigns, which is an improvement on the starting point of 33% two months ago, according to the statement, before it added that there is still a long way to reach the desired benchmark of 80%.

“Guinea is the sole low-income nation to provide vaccines and to date these have only been administered to 25 people. Seychelles, which is a high-income country, is the only one on the continent to start a national vaccination campaign,” it said.

“UNICEF has put in place a global network of freight forwarders and logistics providers to deliver vaccines as quickly and safely as possible as part of this historic and mammoth operation,” Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Director was quoted in the statement.

He said collaboration will ensure that the continent has enough transport capacity in place to deliver vaccine doses, syringes and safety boxes to front-line workers who ultimately protect millions of children who depend on vital services.

The COVAX initiative has raised $6 billion in pledges but needs an additional $2.8 billion in 2021, according to the WHO.

There are more than 3.3 million coronavirus cases on the continent - with an excess of 2.7 million recoveries and 81,000 deaths, according to the WHO’s latest figures.​​​​​​​

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