Africa CDC: We cannot predict when second COVID-19 shots will arrive

Reverend Lucy Natasha receiving COVID - 19 AstraZeneca Vaccine at RFH Health Care in Nairobi, Kenya. /Twitter.
Reverend Lucy Natasha receiving COVID-19 AstraZeneca Vaccine at RFH Health Care in Nairobi, Kenya. /Twitter.

Many Africans who have received their first COVID-19 vaccine do not know when they will get a second shot because deliveries are delayed, the continent’s top public health official said on Thursday.

“We cannot predict when the second doses will come and that is not good for our vaccination programme,” John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told reporters on Thursday.

Africa lags behind most other regions in COVID-19 vaccinations, with just less than 14 million doses having been administered on the continent of 1.3 billion, according to the Africa CDC.

Ghana, for example, has administered around 742,000 doses of the 815,000 shots it has so far received and will run out by the end of next week.

“Even if Ghana had the money, they will not know where to go get the vaccine, that’s the challenge,” said Nkengasong.

So far, the majority of the vaccines available in African countries have been delivered via the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility. COVAX aims to deliver 600 million shots to some 40 African countries this year, enough to vaccinate 20 percent of their populations.

The majority of those doses are AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Insitute of India. But last month, India suspended its exports to meet rising domestic demand amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

That has caused great uncertainty for Africa’s vaccination rollout.

“We are in a bind as a continent,” he added. “Access to vaccines has been limited for us.”

He said he hopes India, where new infections have topped 200,000 a day, will lift its restriction as soon as possible.

People who have received their first jab are already benefiting from some protection from the virus, he said, and he urged nations to use their doses before they expire.

On Tuesday, a South Sudanese government official told Reuters that it would not use the 59,000 vaccines it had received last month as a donation from the MTN Group, a South African mobile operator. The vaccines expired on April 13, the official said.

And on Wednesday, a health official in Malawi said it would destroy more than 16,000 vaccines it had received via the same donation scheme because they had expired, Agence France-Presse reported.

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