The head of Africa’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that ongoing delays in receiving Astra Zeneca vaccines from India pose a threat to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in the face of emerging variants.
John Nkengasong says any interruption would definitely impact the ability to continue vaccinating people.
“If the delay continues – I really want to hope it is a delay and not a ban, because that would be catastrophic if that was the case,” said Nkengasong during a regular press briefing. “Meeting our vaccination schedule would become problematic.”
African nations rely heavily on the Astra Zeneca vaccines provided through the global COVAX partnership, though the vaccine safety continues to meet with careful scrutiny despite assurances from the company. Its use remains restricted in certain age groups in some European countries following incidents of blood clotting in patients who have received the vaccine.
Without the Astra Zeneca products, Africa CDC will not be able to meet an initial target of vaccinations for 30 to 35 percent of its population by the end of 2021. The vaccines remain the backbone of Africa’s program, Nkengasong said.
Johnson & Johnson announced on Monday that 400 million of its single-dose vaccines will be available through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT). Dr. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said this new source may prove a game-changer for Africa.
“Combined with the vaccines supplied through COVAX for low and middle income countries, this deal should ensure all African adults will receive a COVID19 vaccine,” said Piot. “While fantastic news for Africans, saving lives and livelihoods throughout the continent, it is also a vital deal for the rest of the world. The pandemic is not over until it’s over everywhere.”
There have been 4.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases on the continent through Wednesday, the CDC reports. South Africa accounts for 1.6 million, with Ethiopia and Egypt also seeing higher overall case counts.
Image: Africa CDC