By HENRY OWINO
As the spread of vaccinations against COVID-19 ramps up globally, Africa is not left behind as over ten countries have already received the vaccines for their citizens, especially the high-risk groups.
The African countries that have received the vaccines include Angola, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Kenya under the COVAX facility. COVAX is an umbrella vaccine procurement facility championed by UNICEF, WHO, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) for developing countries.
The notable COVID-19 Vaccines so far released include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
Dr Kwame Sarpong Asiedu, while addressing Africa journalists via zoom press briefing organized AfriSMC, said the COVAX facility is meant to ensure the vaccines are easily accessed to the world’s most vulnerable in low in-coming countries.
Dr Kwame who is a Pharmacist with 19 years of experience that includes lecturing in pharmacology in Ghana and the United Kingdom, said as the COVID-19 vaccines are developed and approved, national leaders face a dilemma of priority whether country or the planet.
“Vaccine nationalism – where countries push to get first access could slow the global economic recovery, costing high-income countries $119 billion per year. The cost of supplying low-income countries with vaccines has been estimated at $25 billion,” Dr Kwame explained.
According to Dr Kwame, vaccine nationalism is not new as a similar pattern was seen during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Before that, vaccines for HIV/AIDS, smallpox and polio were only available in developing nations after developed countries had secured enough stocks for their domestic needs.
“As long as COVID-19 is not under control everywhere, the cost of the global pandemic will continue to be as high as $1.2 trillion per year, according to research non-profit RAND Europe,” Dr Kwame cautioned. Vaccine nationalism only helps the virus!” he posed.
Concerning the vaccines priorities and population, the UK based global Health Researcher said there are listed groups targeted for the vaccines especially frontline workers, such as health professionals. Other include, the elderly, people with underlying health conditions (comorbidities), essential service providers or people in hot-spots areas.
However, he said it largely depends on every country arrangements and the population to reach out to.
Dr Kwame said that currently, Africa is receiving the AstraZeneca vaccines because it has basic facilities necessary for the vaccines cold chain storage.
“The AstraZeneca vaccines have favorable temperature storage requirements of between 2-8 degrees Celsius and most Africa nations have such storage facilities. So, it does not need to incur extra cost to buy new cold chain facilities like huge refrigerators for Moderna and Pfizer vaccine types,” Dr Kwame explained.
“So the type of the vaccine a country may order depends largely on healthcare sector cold chain storage capacity. This therefore helps in determining availability of a COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans,” he added.
Lack of proper information and sensitization of citizens by governments may have contributed largely to the ongoing gap on efficacy of the vaccines. It calls for the engagement of medics and the media to sensitize the public on the safety and benefits of the vaccines and the need to vaccinate.
“A lot of citizens are not willing to take the jab, for instance, Ghana my native country. Survey shows only 6 out 10 people are ready for the vaccination due to misinformation, misperception and myths spread by anti-vaxxers globally,” he concluded.