Africa needs at least 20 million doses in the next six weeks, WHO says

A medical worker injects a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine into a man at a hospital in Accra, capital of Ghana, on May 19, 2021.

Seth | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Africa will need at least 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine within the next six weeks to allow people who have already received the first round of shooting, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The data shows that one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is 70% effective for at least 12 weeks, but the second dose offers 81% protection against Covid over a longer period, according to the WHO. Antibodies have been seen in the body for up to six months after a dose.

In order for the continent to be able to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by September, another 200 million doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine are urgently needed, according to the WHO.

As of Thursday, 28 million doses of Covid-19 had been administered in Africa by various drug manufacturers that have nearly 1.4 billion people, which is less than two doses for every 100 people on the continent. For comparison, more than 165 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half the country’s population.

“Africa needs vaccines now. Any break in our vaccination campaigns will result in deaths and a loss of hope,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We urge countries that have vaccinated their high-risk groups to speed up dose distribution to fully protect the most vulnerable.”

France has pledged to share half a million cans with six African countries over the next few weeks and has already sent 31,000 cans to Mauritania. Another 74,400 doses are to be delivered soon, the WHO announced.

The European Union has announced that it will send 100 million doses to low-income countries by the end of 2021, and the United States has pledged 80 million doses. Other countries around the world have also expressed an interest in sharing the doses. Countries in Africa that don’t use all of their cans are also sharing them with other countries on the continent, according to the WHO.

Redistributing vaccine doses is helpful, but expensive. WHO says Africa needs to increase its vaccine production capacity.

“Giving up intellectual property is a critical first step, but it needs to go hand in hand with sharing expertise and critical technologies,” the WHO wrote in a press release.

In Africa, 54 countries are involved in WHO efforts in more than 100 countries to submit a draft resolution to the World Health Assembly. The resolution aims to “strengthen local production, promote technology transfer and innovation and examine the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and intellectual property rights from the point of view of increasing local production,” according to the WHO.

Around 40 African countries have also followed WHO training on building production capacities. The WHO claims to be working with the African Union on a plan to support feasibility studies and technology transfers upon request.

“It’s too early to say if Africa is on the verge of a third wave. We do know, however, that cases are rising and the clock is ticking,” said Moeti.

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