Many Africans May Not Receive Their Second COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Anytime Soon, Africa CDC Warns
africa cdc
Dr John Nkengasong warns delays in shipments could threaten achieving set vaccination goals in Africa

IBADAN – The Africa CDC has expressed concerns over the disruption of the COVID-19 vaccination drive in Africa saying it was preventing many Africans who have received the first
dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine may not be able to receive the second dose 12 weeks after the first dose as recommended in the vaccination guideline. 

Rwanda has already exhausted its doses, Ghana is administering its last 100,000 doses even as Nigeria is also racing to administer its remaining doses.

While it is not clearly known what the implications of delay in receiving the second dose will be, recipients of the first dose already have some form of immune protection against the virus,  Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC said  while addressing a Thursday morning press briefing.

“We don’t know that delay by a couple of months or weeks, will impair the ability to boost it (immune system) when you get a second dose. I don’t think so. It’s just that it doesn’t give you that full range of your immune system reacting and getting ready to fight the virus once you get exposed to it. But they can be assured that with the first dose, they are already getting some protection from developing disease,” Nkengasong said.

At a WHO African region press briefing, Dr Richard Mihigo, Immunization and Vaccine Development Programme Coordinator at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, noted that African countries did the right thing by using the first shipments they received to immunise as many people as possible instead of halving the recipients in order to fully immunise some recipients.

Dr Richard Mihigo

“African countries, I must say, took the right decision with the limited supply to use most of their doses as the first dose with the expectation that the second dose will come quite soon,” he added. 

While admitting that there have been some challenges regarding the arrival of the second doses, the WHO said indications from COVAX Secretariat and other ongoing discussions pertaining to the AstraZeneca vaccine for which many African countries have applied a 12-week interval between dose one and dose two, suggest the additional shipments will be available soon.

“I think everything is being put in place to make sure that they can receive the second shipment on time to deliver the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he added. 

Wakeup Call for Africa
Prof Oyewale Tomori

Oyewale Tomori, Professor of Virology at Nigeria’s Redeemer’s University, noted that the circumstances surrounding delays in receiving shipments for second doses of the vaccine is a wakeup call for Africa as a continent to be more proactive regarding its vaccine sources.

“We’ve been at the receiving end of global omission for too long. Now is an opportunity for us to plan for the future. We shouldn’t be in this position again,” he said. 

He enjoined African leaders to be more proactive, move the continent forward and stop its dependence on the rest of the world. 

“Our leaders must be proactive in getting this. We shouldn’t repeat this issue when we are at the mercy of  the rest of the world. We’ve been in this position for too long,” Tomori said.

South Africa, DRC to Resume COVID-19 Vaccinations
Dr Boitumelo Semete

There are meanwhile indications that COVID-19 immunizations with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will soon resume in South Africa and begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the AstraZeneca vaccine – despite the concerns registered in the USA and Europe over rare occurrences of blood clots from those jabs. 

On 13 April, the Minister of Health of South Africa, the only African country that is rolling out the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, announced that the country has decided to pause rollout of the vaccine as a precautionary measure as review of the situation is ongoing.

But while addressing the WHO press briefing, Dr Boitumelo Semete, CEO of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, announced the country will soon resume J&J vaccinations.

“We anticipate the pause will be lifted in a couple of days to come,” Semete said.

Semete noted that the decision to pause the vaccine rollout was to enable the country to review available data considering only a few countries have rolled the vaccine. 

For DR Congo, Africa CDC announced the country is ready to nationally roll out the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from 19 April.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Minister of Interior announced yesterday that the country will finally launch the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign on 19 April, initially suspended due to concerns about adverse events related to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Nkengasong said.

By 12 April 2021, over 34.6 million vaccine doses have been acquired by African countries with nearly 14 million doses administered so far. 

Morocco, Nigeria and Ghana are leading with 8.6 million, over 1 million and nearly 700,000 doses administered respectively. Moreover, 32 African countries have received consignment of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility, with 12 additional countries receiving allocation through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).

Image Credits: Paul Adepoju, Paul Adepoju .

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