This week, shipments arrived in Covax participating countries including Kenya, Uganda,Somalia, South Sudan Angola, Lesotho, Malawi Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
At least 11 million Covid-19 vaccine doses will have been delivered by the end of this week in various African countries, via the United Nations’ Covax scheme, while South Africa’s Phase 1 of it’s vaccine roll-out-cum-phase 3B clinical trials also picked up steam.
According to The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) regional spokesperson for Africa James Elder, the Covax roll-out program was well under way globally, although more funding was needed in order to reach the goal of 2 billion doses.
“The priority at the moment is healthcare workers all over the world and that is what is happening right now here in the continent. The aim of that is to reach 20% of the population of each country. These vaccines are about saving lives, but the end of the pandemic will come through a range of measures,” said Elder.
This week, shipments arrived in Covax participating countries including Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, South Sudan Angola, Lesotho, Malawi Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Botswana and South Africa were the only two self-financing members of the global scheme.
After a year of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lesotho received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines on Thursday. Over 10 000 infections have been recorded in the enclave country, with over 300 deaths in its 2,1 million population.
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According to UNICEF, this week’s deliveries marked the beginning of what would be the largest, most complex global roll-out of vaccines in history.
Lesotho received 36, 000 vaccines as part of an initial tranche of deliveries of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine licensed to the Serum Institute of India. This comes as South Africa has finalised the sale of its soon-to-be expired AstraZeneca vaccines to the African Union. Rwanda received a batch of Pfizer vaccines.
Elder pointed out, however, that vaccines are only the beginning of the fight against the deadly pandemic. Developing countries need continued support to ensure that non-pharmaceutical prevention measures, treatment and other basic needs are met.
“The vaccines of course are so critical because they are there to save lives. But we also need equitable and easy access to testing and treatment. We need communications, like you and I speaking about it, social distancing and mask wearing. Then we we need investments that support practical measures so that we can keep the logistics out there, the testing ,vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE).”
Healthcare workers in South Africa are still in the process of receiving vaccines from Johnson and Johnson after the purchase of 1,5 million Oxford AtraZeneca vaccines backfired when it turned out they were ineffective against a variant of Covid-19 which was dominant in the second wave of the pandemic in the country.
This week complaints by healthcare workers in the military highlighted the desperation with which thousands of essential services personnel were trying to get vaccinated, as procurement for vaccines for the rest of the population continued to lag behind other countries.
The South African Medical Association (SAMA) said it received numerous queries regarding COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers in the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS).
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According to SAMA spokesperson Dr Angelique Coetzee, Surgeon-General of the SAMHS, Lt-General Zola Dabula, assured SAMA that all healthcare professionals would be vaccinated, regardless of whether they are civilian or permanent force members. Non-healthcare professionals in the SAHMS, however have to register for vaccinations through the National Department of Health’s Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS).
“Vaccine rollout is scheduled to begin in mid-March at approved vaccination sites, according to NDoH guidelines,
and Lt-Gen Dabula is currently busy with an inspection throughout the country to accredit these facilities. We
support this step, but stress it must be done according to departmental regulations,” said Coetzee.
According to Coetzee, the Johnson & Johnson vaccines would be used as the first choice as per discussions with government, though this had yet to be authorised by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority
(SAHPRA), and the regulatory status on the vaccines would need to be considered.
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