Who wants 300 million Covid-19 vaccines?

By Yara Rizk
Posted on Monday, 28 February 2022 09:57, updated on Tuesday, 1 March 2022 11:08

Arrival of the first batch of doses for Ghana via the Covax programme in February 2021. © Francis Kokoroko/REUTERS

Eligible countries have claimed barely a quarter of the doses available through the Covax programme. This is an unprecedented situation that raises concerns and questions.

The joint challenge of the WHO and Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the two organisations responsible for managing the Covax programme, is to successfully administer a significant number of Covid-19 vaccines to African populations. This was discussed at their summit on 23 February in Abuja, Nigeria.

The scale of the task is immense.

According to an official document published in mid-February 2022, the Covax programme had 436 million doses to allocate to low-income countries at the end of January. However, low-income countries have only requested 100 million doses to be distributed by the end of May, reports Reuters. “This is the first time in 14 allocation rounds that supply has exceeded demand,” said the same source.

A critical balance sheet

According to the WHO, only 14% of eligible individuals have received all the required Covid-19 doses in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin and Guinea, 6% in Senegal, 4% in Niger and Burkina Faso, 3% in Madagascar and Cameroon. This is an extremely low rate compared to the world average of over 55%. Less than a third of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated, compared to over 70% in rich countries.

Part of the reason for the low demand is the limited capacity to manage stocks and administer doses. This is due, in particular, to various weaknesses in the maintenance of the cold chain, but also to the lack of resources to support the distribution networks.

According to UNICEF, 44 of the African Union’s member states have “critical gaps” in this area.

  • 24 countries reported a need for refrigerators;
  • 18 for freezers, 22 for cold rooms;
  • 16 for walk-in refrigerators.

According to the UN agency, Burundi and Guinea have gaps at all levels of the cold chain.

Although 800 special freezers and 52,000 refrigerators have already been delivered to nearly 70 countries, many experts believe that the Covax programme has not invested quickly enough in infrastructure and equipment. Those responsible for vaccine distribution in Africa, however, believe that the real scourge affecting the continent lies elsewhere. Its name: misinformation.

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