Call for access to Covid-19 vaccines for Africa

Johannesburg – The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa has joined immunisation experts in urging the international community and African countries to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. 

  WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti says as the international community comes together to develop vaccines and therapeutics for Covid-19, equity must be a central focus of these efforts.

  “Too often, African countries end up at the back of the queue for new technologies, including vaccines. These life-saving products must be available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay,” Moeti says.

  WHO and partners launched the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator to speed up the development, production and equitable access to Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

  It brings together leaders of government, global health organizations civil society groups, businesses and philanthropies to form a plan for an equitable response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  WHO is collaborating with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure a fair allocation of vaccines to all countries, aiming to deliver two billion doses globally for high-risk populations, and one billion for low and middle-income countries.

  The African Union has endorsed the need for Africa to develop a framework to engage in the development and access to Covid-19 vaccines. Countries can take steps that will strengthen health systems, improve immunisation delivery, and pave the way for the introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine.

  These include mobilising financial resources; strengthening local vaccine manufacturing, and regulatory, supply and distribution systems; building workforce skills and knowledge; enhancing outreach services; and listening to community concerns to counter misinformation.

  Globally, there are nearly 150 Covid-19 vaccine candidates, and currently 19 are in clinical trials.

  South Africa is first on the continent to start a clinical trial, with Wits University testing a vaccine developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute in the UK.  

  “I encourage more countries to join these trials so that the contexts and immune response of African populations are factored into studies. Africa has the scientific expertise to contribute widely to the search for an effective Covid-19 vaccine. Our researchers have helped develop vaccines which provide protection against communicable diseases such as meningitis, Ebola, yellow fever and other common health threats in the region,” says Dr Moeti. 

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