Is Africa Failing In The Race For Covid-19 Vaccines?

In the last quarter of 2020, African countries were signing up with the rest of the world to secure at least 220 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for the continent as the race to find safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines kicked-off.

While eight countries in Africa had agreed to self-finance their vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility,  a global initiative which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO), all 54 African countries on the continent expressed their interest in the initiative.

COVAX and its partners are currently working with governments and manufacturers to procure enough vaccine doses to protect the most vulnerable populations on the continent. 

The initiative aims at ensuring access for both higher-income countries which will self-finance their own participation and middle and lower-income countries which will have their participation supported by the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

In addition, 46 countries in Africa were granted eligibility for support from the financing instrument, the COVAX AMC, which has raised approximately 700 million US dollars against an initial target of 2 billion US dollars seed funding from high-income donor countries, as well as private sector and philanthropists.

It is, however, important to note that as the pressure for vaccination mounts on African governments, many who have made promises are finding it hard to keep.

For instance, the Nigerian government promised vaccines will arrive as early as this month, despite regulators stating previously they would only approve a version in April. 

On the other hand, according to the local report, Kenya claims to have ordered 24 million doses while eSwatini says it will begin vaccinating its more than 1.1 million people in the first quarter. Yet, Covax at best aims to provide shots for 20% of the populations of its 92 member nations in 2021.

In the case of South Africa, a nation with a sophisticated medical industry that’s hosting four Covid-19 vaccine trials,  the government was reportedly failing to secure any direct supply deals with drugmakers.

Bloomberg, however, reports that South Africa had failed to secure any direct supply deals with drugmakers and a charity had to pay off the country’s Covax deposit and private medical insurers say they will fund shots for 30% of citizens likely to need vaccinations.

Would it then be safe to say that Africa’s inability to successfully progress in the vaccine race should be blamed on the incompetence of its governing bodies or the idea of an increasingly glaring case of global inequality? 

Patsy Nwogu

Reporting on data-driven featured stories and investigations.

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