Officials from the United States announced on Thursday that they will increase coronavirus vaccine assistance for 11 African nations in an effort prevent future variants and to boost inoculation efforts in the least-vaccinated continent.
Through the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, or Global Vax, the Biden administration will provide “intensive financial, technical and diplomatic support” to African countries that have recently shown the capacity to hasten vaccine uptake, according to a statement from the United States Agency for International Development.
The agency said it selected a group of countries in sub-Saharan Africa — Angola, Eswatini, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia — based on the burden of Covid-19 on their populations, the capacity of their health systems, their readiness to quickly administer vaccine doses in the absence of supply constraints and their ability to effectively deploy additional U.S. investments.
Global Vax was established in December to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite receiving more vaccines in Africa, many countries have struggled to distribute them due to a lack of ultracold chain freezers and difficulties in delivering them to remote villages and towns. Misinformation and vaccine hesitancy are also problems.
With the Biden administration’s additional financial assistance, these 11 African countries will receive “increased U.S. government engagement and funding to rapidly assess needs and scale up the rate of vaccination, including support from experts here in the U.S. and in the field,” the statement said.
The U.S. government’s latest support comes as the World Health Organization sent 42 experts to at most 18 African countries that face difficulties in administering vaccines. For three to six months — and in some cases up to a year — these experts are set to help countries like Burundi, Ethiopia and Mozambique in financial planning, managing vaccine stocks and improving public health measures.
Currently, just 12 percent of the African population — or 168 million people — have been fully vaccinated, according to the W.H.O., with Africa accounting for just 3.5 percent of the 10.3 billion doses administered globally.
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Averaging six million people are vaccinated each week in Africa, but officials from the health sector say that this number needs to rise to around 36 million if Africa is to achieve its shared goal of vaccinating 70% of all Africans by the middle of the year.
The disparity in access to vaccines has been a contentious issue over the past year, with African leaders and public health officials accusing rich countries of stockpiling doses and making “a mockery of vaccine equity” by administering booster shots. This week, European and African leaders met in Brussels to discuss vaccine equity, production, and distribution.
Friday was Friday for the W.H.O. director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that six African countries — Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia — would be the first to get access to the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was happy with the commitment.
“This is an initiative that will allow us to make our own vaccines and that, to us, is very important,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in a statement. “It means mutual respect, mutual recognition of what we can all bring to the party, investment in our economies, infrastructure investment and, in many ways, giving back to the continent.”
Source: NY Times