WHO roots for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine in Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that donors and industry should allocate sufficient resources to ensure that African countries have access to a safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccine.
Richard Mihigo, Program Area Manager of Immunization and Vaccine Development of WHO, said on Thursday that the needs and aspirations of African countries should be at the heart of the ongoing global efforts to develop vaccines against the pandemic, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Africa has often ended up at the back seat of vaccine development but this must not happen as the fight against COVID-19 pandemic enters a critical phase,” Mihigo said during a virtual briefing in Nairobi.
“We must secure enough doses and give priority to the frontline health workers, the aged and people with underlying conditions in the continent,” he added.
The WHO official said that all the 54 African countries have signed up to COVAX, an initiative fronted by WHO in conjunction with the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) that aims to secure about 220 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the continent.
Mitoha Ondo’ O Ayekaba, vice minister for Health and Social Welfare, Equatorial Guinea, said that COVAX provides innovative financing options to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine is readily available in Africa.
“We believe that through this initiative we can access successfully tested vaccines in a timely manner and at a lower cost,” said Ayekeba.
He said that Equatorial Guinea is among eight African countries that have agreed to self-finance their COVID-19 doses under the COVAX Facility.
Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said that two COVID-19 candidates, supported by COVAX initiative, are already undergoing clinical trials in South Africa, to help ascertain their efficacy and safety.
“Testing vaccines on the continent ensures that sufficient data is generated on the safety and efficacy of the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population so they can be confidently rolled out in Africa once vaccines are approved,” said Hatchett.