AU urges intensified measures against new COVID-19 infections

African Union

The African Union has urged Kenya and other countries to keep the rate of coronavirus infections low in order to reduce the number of deaths which peaked at over 50,000 because there is currently no definitive treatment for the virus.

Ahmed Ogwell, Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Deputy Director, said in Nairobi on Thursday that keeping the rate of infections low would play a major role in keeping more people away from the pandemic, whose ratio of deaths to the number of infections is currently at 2.4 percent in Africa.

“The higher the number of infections, the more lives are likely to be lost because there is no definitive treatment. It is important to keep the deaths low if we manage to keep the rate of infections down,” said Ogwell, who is leading a delegation from the AU CDC to a tour of Kenya.

The AU team is in Kenya to drum up support for measures to control the spread of the pandemic. Kenya currently has a caseload of over 80,000 people infected by the virus, according to the health ministry.

Speaking about the preparations towards the launching of a vaccine to enhance the protection of the population and to stop the virus from its further devastation, the AU officials said countries should use the period before the distribution of the vaccine starts to enhance preparedness to distribute it.

The AU CDC officials praised China for undertaking coronavirus vaccine trials in North Africa, saying while vaccines have been developed and tested on populations outside of the African continent, it would be much safer if localized trials were undertaken amongst the African population.

“We will use the time between now and the launch of the vaccines in Africa to urge the manufacturers of these vaccines to carry out clinical tests in Africa,” said John Nkengasong, the Africa CDC Director, during a virtual briefing.

He said the genetic makeup of the African population may be different from those of other populations around the world and there may be a need for localized trials.

“We are not saying these tests have to be carried out before the launch of the vaccines but it is important the different genetics of the African population is taken into consideration and the immunological reactions of the population to the vaccine is studied,” Nkengasong told reporters.

The AU launched the Consortium for Clinical Trials in Africa (COVAX) which is working together amongst various partners including the World Health Organisation (WHO) to facilitate clinical trials alongside other major players in the global vaccine development to carry out these tests.

Nkengasong said the AU is working with the WHO, the Global Vaccine Alliance Initiative (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness to ensure the vaccines which would require low storage temperatures are stored appropriately to enable their safe and efficient distribution once ready.

In August, Tunisia’s institut Pasteur launched the vaccine trials on a possible vaccine using DNA technology.

Chinese companies are currently undertaking the vaccine trials in Tunisia, according to the Africa CDC officials.

Chinese firms SinoVac and SinoPharm are amongst the global leaders in the search for a vaccine.

Africa CDC officials said a centralized system of procuring the vaccines has been agreed upon and the AU is formally in negotiations with China on availing some of the dosage required against the virus.

“We are discussing with China. We have formally engaged with them as well as our engagements under COVAX which was established in July. The goal is to engage the manufacturers of this vaccine. We are formally engaged with the Chinese on the North African vaccine trials,” Nkengasong said. Enditem

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