Africa’s vaccination drive against COVID-19 has gathered momentum as countries rush to protect their citizens.
As of Friday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa had reached 4,005,204, including 107,001 deaths and 3,589,067 recovered patients, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
With confirmed cases passing the 4-million mark, vaccination on the continent gathers pace.
China, among the leading countries, has provided a significant amount of doses to African countries in their quest to conquer the virus.
As African countries are scrambling to acquire vaccines from manufacturers, many of them have received doses from China, Russia, and the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX), an initiative spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines across the world.
A total of 28 African nations have received the COVID-19 vaccines, 19 through the COVAX facility, nine through bilateral agreements, and 16 of them have started vaccinating priority populations, according to a statement issued by Africa CDC on Monday.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said 24 African countries are expected to receive their doses procured under COVAX in March.
She also said that 600 million doses procured under the COVAX facility will be delivered to Africa in 2021.
Priority in vaccination is being given to medical front-liners, patients suffering from chronic diseases and the elderly. African leaders have also been at the forefront in receiving jabs, in an effort to boost public confidence in the doses.
“The arrival of the first batch of vaccines through the COVAX Facility, in which China also participates, is a welcomed development,” said Olu Bolarinwa, lead pharmacist at the Safeway Medical Center based in Lagos, Nigeria.
“We have less than 4 million doses, but this is a drop in the ocean in view of our population. However, it is a welcomed development,” said Bolarinwa.
As countries on the continent step up procurement of vaccines, they also face challenges of the shortage of doses and inadequate health infrastructure.
John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC, believes that Africa faces several challenges in its vaccine roll-out, the major one being timely access to the vaccines.
“The first is how we timely access vaccines so that we can block the spread of this pandemic. Our number two challenge is that our populations have begun to face what is called pandemic fatigue. We have been doing this for one year and people are getting tired,” he said.
“Very few African countries have so far already ordered vaccines because we can’t produce them locally,” said Cavince Adhere, an international relations researcher in Kenya.
The WHO has observed that a successful roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine in Africa largely depends on improving the knowledge of the continent’s frontline healthcare workers in critical areas such as storage, supply chain management, and effective communication to the public.
Ambrose Talisuna, emergency preparedness program manager at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, noted that a critical mass of trained healthcare workers is key to boosting COVID-19 vaccine preparedness and uptake in the continent.
Helping African countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic and bringing their economies back on track is the top priority of the China-Africa cooperation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a press conference on Sunday.
China has started to provide COVID-19 vaccines to 35 African countries and the African Union Commission, and has provided close to 120 batches of emergency supplies to Africa and sent medical expert teams to 15 African countries to support their fight against the pandemic, he said.
A new session of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation scheduled later this year in Senegal will offer new opportunities to help Africa triumph over COVID-19 and strengthen its public health governance capacity, he added.
China, once again, has been on the forefront in helping Africa to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, by providing in time its vaccines to some African countries.
Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone were the first three African countries to get donations of Sinopharm doses last month.
The donation to Equatorial Guinea on Feb. 10 was the first batch of vaccine aid provided by the Chinese government to African countries.
“In this context of crisis, only China has extended its hand to Equatorial Guinea, which has become the first African country to receive Chinese vaccine aid, and we are grateful for it,” Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said on receiving the donation.
As of Monday, 35,761 frontline workers in Zimbabwe had received the Sinopharm vaccine, according to the health ministry.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday lauded China for the donation of Sinopharm doses, saying that the generous gift by China will greatly contribute to Zimbabwe’s quest to achieve herd immunity.
Director Nkengasong of Africa CDC also expressed gratitude to China for its assistance to Africa so far.
“So, we call on all our partners, including China, to join us in this effort so that we can immunize our people rapidly to get a record of at least 60 percent (of the total African population),” he said.
“We appreciate what China is doing on the continent, and we call on others, including the COVAX facility, to join this effort,” he added. Enditem
(Wang Ping in Addis Ababa, Guo Jun and Olatunji Saliu in Abuja, Bai Lin and Li Hualing in Nairobi, Xu Zheng in Accra, Jing Jing in Johannesburg and Teng Junwei in Gaborone have also contributed to the story.)