African Union headquarters
African Union headquarter

The African Union (AU) has called on members to strengthen their clinical trials and research on the safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates on African populations.

The call was made by the AU Commission’s specialized healthcare agency, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

The Africa CDC, which on Feb. 9 convened a special session of the Africa Task Force for COVID-19 to review existing data and evidence, recommend various measures for African countries.

“All countries should strengthen their clinical trials research capacity to generate data on the safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates in African populations as recommended by the Africa CDC Consortium for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials (CONCVACT),” it said in a special report published late Wednesday.

For countries that have not reported the circulation of the new variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 N501Y.V2 (or B.1.351), the Africa CDC recommended “proceeding with the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

The agency also recommended countries that have reported the circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 N501Y.V2 (or B.1.351) to speed up their preparedness to introduce all COVID-19 vaccines that have received emergency use authorization or approval by regulatory authorities.

It also called for expanded surveillance testing capacity, noting that many countries in Africa are managing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Africa CDC, the emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant known as N501Y.V2 (or B.1.351) is associated with increased rate of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and has been of concern across the continent, mainly due to the increased pressure that the high number of new infections will place on the healthcare systems, many of which are already overburdened.

South Africa has so far reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Africa, with 1,484,900 confirmed cases.

According to the Africa CDC, the new variant accounts for at least 80 percent of new cases identified during South Africa’s second wave of the pandemic.

On Jan. 22, the South African Regulatory Agency granted emergency use authorization for COVISHIELD (University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India).

On Feb. 1, the first consignment of 1 million doses of the vaccine was delivered to the South Africa.

On Feb. 7, the South African government announced a temporary halt to the rollout of the vaccine following reports that the vaccine only offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases of COVID-19 infections.

As of Friday morning, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa surpassed 3,715,923, as the death toll due to the pandemic rose to 97,299, according to the latest figures from the Africa CDC. Enditem

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