what access to a future vaccine for Africa?

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The first results on the effectiveness of several anti-Covid-19 vaccines, which are currently in the testing phase, give hope for the imminent arrival in the market for high-performance products. But in developing countries, concerns about not having enough access are very prevalent.

At a press conference on 19 November, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on how Africa was preparing for the arrival of a vaccine, in particular through The Covax platform, an initiative led by the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the WHO.

According to official figures, Covid-19 has infected more than two million people and killed more than 48,000 on the continent. Although trials of potential future vaccines are not yet complete, Africa is already preparing for it.

The continent is used to organizing large-scale vaccination campaigns. The process is known, the staff trained and can be mobilized. But there are still many challenges to face, according to the WHO, regardless of logistics to be able to store these vaccines at very low temperatures or in terms of communication so that the population accepts these vaccines.

Two billion doses

But the first difficulty for developing countries is still access to vaccines. A total of 94 poor countries around the world, especially in Africa, rely on the Covax platform. They are pooling their resources and international aid there to compete with the rich countries in this highly controversial market.

WHO says that negotiations are already underway with the Moderna laboratory. Discussions with Pfizer should also start receiving doses as soon as the first vaccines are on the market.

“Let’s be realistic,” chuckles the head of WHO Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. There will not be enough doses for everyone, so the WHO’s goal is to vaccinate 20% of the population in low-income countries by the end of 2021. “This represents two billion doses to buy and to prioritize to healthcare professionals, people at risk and possibly in sectors that are important for the economy, such as transport or tourism.

To purchase the vaccines and organize injection campaigns, $ 5.1 billion has already been raised within the Covax platform. It lacks 4.2 billion to achieve these goals, according to Dr. Moeti.

Second wave?

After weeks of decline, the number of Covid-19 cases has increased again in 19 countries in Africa in one month, especially in the Maghreb countries, in Kenya, in Ghana or in South Africa, mainly in large city centers. According to the African Union Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Africa CDC, between 2 and 8 November, there was an increase of 13% of cases across the continent.

For Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, if it’s still too early to talk about the second wave, it’s still necessary to prepare for it. “In some cases, the increase in the number of cases is linked to the weather, for example when it is winter settles down,” she explains. “People gather indoors without taking precautions, as we have seen in Europe. Sometimes it is linked to specific events. It is a choice and people meet in meetings, or there is pressure from religious groups because people are tired of praying in isolation. ”

“We must therefore anticipate now what we can call a second wave as the economies reopen, people move and are tired of this social distancing,” Matshidiso Moeti continues. And the holiday season can aggravate this situation. Above all, we must be able to locate cases. Screening is basic. We must be able to act in a targeted manner, locally and quickly, and we must mobilize the population again and inform it in order to keep the second wave in our countries ”.

► Read also: Vaccine against Covid-19: UN demands fair access to Covax

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