Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

A health worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

| Christof Stache | AFP

Africa, Oceania lag behind as virus drug access gap widens

Africa and Oceania have recorded the poorest Covid-19 vaccination coverage, as data reveals the scramble for coronavirus vaccines favours rich countries. 

An analysis of global vaccination records by continent and doses administered per 100 people reveals yawning inequalities in the race for acquisition of vaccines to help people cope with the deadly virus.

At only 0.2 million for Africa and 0.1 million for Oceania, the two regions are lagging very far behind.

Photo credit: Source | Our World in Data

In comparison, North America is leading with 11.4million vaccinations, followed by Europe (6.9million), South America (2.5million) and (Asia 1.7 million).

As of February 24, more than 213 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered across 95 countries worldwide, as countries raced against time to procure jabs for their people.

The United States is leading, with more than 65 million already vaccinated and 1.28 million doses being administered daily.

The US is closely followed by mainland China, which has vaccinated more than 40 million, the United Kingdom 18 million, India 11 million with Turkey, Israel and Brazil having vaccinated more than seven million people each.

Germany and the United Arab Emirates had vaccinated about five million of their citizens by February 24, with Russia as the 10th country with more than four million doses already administered.

Nine different vaccines have been authorised for use in different countries around the world, with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine leading in 66 countries, followed by Oxford-AstraZeneca in 46 countries.

Kenya is expecting 24 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine sometime next week.

Photo credit: AFP file

Moderna is being used in 27 countries, Sinopharm-Beijing 11 countries, Gamaleya (Sputnik V) 10 countries, Sinovac six, Sinopharm-Wuhan two countries while  Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) and Johnson&Johnson are being administered in one country each.

Several countries, including Kenya, have chosen and authorised the use of different Covid-19 vaccines but are yet to begin administering the jabs.

In Kenya, only Oxford-AstraZeneca has been authorised for use, with Gamaleya (Sputnik V) still under verification.

Kenya is expecting 24 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine sometime next week, according to Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi.

Dr Mwangangi said the first beneficiaries will be groups of people at high risk of contracting the virus.

Health workers, police officers, the elderly and teachers will be the first to receive the vaccine, which will be made available in the first quarter of next year.

Dr Mwangangi said the vaccination programme, which will have begun early this month, will cover 40 per cent of the population.

The first phase will involve 1.2 million frontline workers, including healthcare workers, security officers and teachers and will run for six months.

The second phase will target 5.1 million Kenyans who are aged 50 years and above while the third phase will focus on 5.2 million people with chronic illnesses.

For all the vaccines that are currently in use, two doses are required.

The only exception is Johnson & Johnson, which, when approved, will be a one-shot jab.

As countries rush to have their citizens vaccinated, a yawning gap has emerged between wealthy countries, which are grabbing the doses from the manufacturers and the poor countries, many of which will have to rely on sharing arrangements to get their doses.

Many African countries are yet to get a single dose of the vaccines, though some  have started rolling out their vaccination programmes.

Cyril Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine shot at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town on February 17, 2021.

Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia | AFP

Over the past one month, Morocco has been rolling out AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines, alongside Algeria (Sputnik V) and Egypt (Sinopharm)

 In sub-Saharan Africa, the countries where Covid-19 vaccines are being administered are South Africa (Johnson & Johnson), Seychelles (Sinopharm and AstraZeneca), Rwanda (Pfizer and Moderna), Mauritius (AstraZeneca), Zimbabwe (Sinopharm) and Senegal (Sinopharm).

 The Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) is already ordering Covid-19 vaccines for all African Union member states.

This is being done on behalf of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), which is in turn facilitated by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of the member states.

African Union Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa, announced last week that the African Union had secured a provisional 270 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for the continent through its Covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (Avatt).

The doses are from Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca.

The AMSP route is also expected to enable faster, more transparent and cost-effective access to Covid-19 supplies.

  “These are historical times. For the first time in history, Africa has secured access to millions of vaccine doses in the middle of a pandemic, just like most Western countries,” said African Union Special Envoy Strive Masiyiwa.

He adds: “There is still a huge shortage of vaccine doses and that is why this continental collaboration has designed a fair allocation, coupled with timely and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines across the continent.”

To support vaccination operations, the AMSP has also created a new category on vaccine accessories, which will help its members procure products such as ultra-low temperature freezers, personal protection equipment, rolls of cotton wool, syringes and needles.

“The biggest challenges to Covid-19 vaccine access in Africa have been financing and the logistics of vaccinating, but we are glad that this gap is being filled by the Afreximbank financing facility. The critical decision now is how to get started so that once we start there will be no disruptions and this is where AMSP will play a very big role,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.                                             

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