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Africa needs 150m COVID-19 jabs monthly to vaccinate 70% population by 2022

By Chukwuma Muanya
24 September 2021   |   4:17 am
The World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, said for Africa to fully vaccinate 70 per cent of its population by September 2022, COVID-19 vaccine shipments to the continent must rise ...

World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti speaks during a news briefing in Nairobi, Kenya March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

• U.S. promises to donate 500m more vaccines in 12 months
• FG tasked on local production of oxygen

The World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, said for Africa to fully vaccinate 70 per cent of its population by September 2022, COVID-19 vaccine shipments to the continent must rise by over seven times from around 20 million to 150 million monthly on the average.

Its Regional Office, during a virtual press conference yesterday, facilitated by APO Group, recollected that the 70 per cent target was agreed at the global COVID-19 summit hosted by the United States on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly within the week.

At the summit, the American government promised to donate 500 million more COVID-19 vaccines to low-income nations over the next one year. The fresh pledge brings the total to more than 1.1 billion doses.

During the briefing, which was attended by The Guardian, Programme Director for Universal Health Coverage/Communicable and Non-communicable Disease, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Benido Impouma, was joined by Director-General, National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB), Democratic Republic of Congo and Technical Secretary of the Multisectoral Committee for the Response to COVID-19 in the East African country, Prof. Jean-Jacques Muyembe and Group Chief Executive Officer, AMREF Health Africa, Dr. Githinji Gitahi.

Also present to respond to questions were Coordinator, Immunisation and Vaccines Development Programme, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Richard Mihigo and Regional COVID-19 Deputy Incident Manager, Dr. Thierno Balde.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said: “The global COVID-19 summit was a dose of hope for Africa and we commend pledges to share more vaccines, save lives and build back better.”

It is the kind of international solidarity that will help to end the pandemic. This is about life and death for potentially millions of Africans. So, there is no time to waste in getting these shipments moving.”

According to the global agency, the COVAX facility, set up to ensure equitable access to jabs, has been forced to slash planned deliveries to Africa by 25 per cent this year, due to global supply shortages and export bans.

COVAX shipments are still coming into African nations – with four million doses received in the past week. However, only a third of the vaccines that wealthy countries pledged to share with the continent by the end of 2021 have been received.

“Actions speak far louder than words and African countries need clear delivery dates so they can plan properly. We also need strong structures set up to ensure that all promises made are kept,” Moeti urged.

THIS is even as the Federal Government has been advised to minimise wastage by rethinking the proposed augmentation of COVID-19 oxygen centres in the 36 states and allow the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) to produce the product.

A procurement expert, Mohammed Bougei Attah, made the appeal during a media chat in response to the N836 million approved on Wednesday by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to support oxygen plants in the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Attah, who is Project Director of NGO Network and Secretary of the National Planning Committee (NPC) for the upcoming National Conference on Ajaokuta Steel Project and President Muhammadu Buhari Industrialisation Agenda, stated: “There is no need for the Federal Government to establish oxygen plants in all the 36 states again since the ASCL has the capacity to meet their oxygen needs.”

Besides, WHO has assisted 18 African countries in conducting intra-action reviews, which analyse all aspects of their vaccination campaigns and offer recommendations. The assessments showed that vaccine supply security and uncertainty around deliveries have been a major impediment to most of the countries. Also, the longer the delay in rolling out the vaccines, the greater the risk of emerging fresh challenges like variants, hesitancy, operational gaps or other threats.

The organisation pointed out that while Africa’s third wave continues to ease, 108 000 new cases were recorded and more than 3000 lives lost in the week leading to September 19. There are now nearly 8.2 million COVID-19 cases on the continent.

The Delta variant has been found in 38 African countries, with the Alpha mutation detected in 45 nations and the Beta in 40 others.

In the meantime, a new study published on September 22 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology – Maternal–Fetal Medicine, found that pregnant women who received COVID-19 vaccination passed protection to their newborns.

The researchers said the effectiveness of the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna mRNA jabs lies in their ability to trigger production of the right antibodies and blood proteins capable of protecting individuals from infection. Whether this protection could pass from mothers to their infants before birth has remained a question.

The new study of 36 newborns, whose mothers received either the Pfizer–BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, found that 100 per cent of the infants had protective antibodies at birth.

Antibodies can either be produced as part of the natural response to infection or triggered by vaccines. With that in mind, the research team was able to tell apart antibodies in the neonatal blood that were created in response to natural infection from those made in response to the vaccines. The result is relevant because natural antibody responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are not sufficiently protective for many people. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that just 23 percent of pregnant women have been vaccinated, despite growing evidence of prenatal vaccine safety.

Led by researchers at New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine, the authors observed the highest levels of antibodies in cord blood of mothers, who were fully vaccinated during the second half of their pregnancies. This insight provides evidence of transferred immunity to neonates, which correlates with protection against infection for infants during the first months of life.