COVAX Starts Shipping COVID-19 Vaccines to Africa This Month
Kampala, Uganda | FLAVIA NASSAKA | Uganda will be one of the beneficiaries of a COVAX initiative that will deliver lower cost COVID-19 vaccines to African countries this month. Uganda will purchase her share of 3.5million vaccines at $7.
President Yoweri Museveni confirmed last night in an address to the nation that Uganda is preparing to start vaccinations end of this month.
“We are getting 3.5million vaccines through COVAX. We are also planning to buy from the Serum Institute in India 18 million doses, which is 9 million persons because everyone gets two doses,” Museveni said.
“We will start with health workers, then security personnel, then the teachers who have underlying conditions like diabetes and alcohol that make them very vulnerable. The first 3.5 million and the next 18 million of this first batch, will go to those priority groups, and the elders,” Museveni said.
All those vaccinated in this first batch, will get their doses from government for free.
African Countries will receive nearly 90 million COVID-19 doses to kick-start what will be Africa’s largest-ever mass vaccination campaign, thanks to the COVAX initiative.
The global initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has notified African countries of the estimated dose allocation for the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine delivery.
“Africa has watched other regions start COVID-19 vaccination campaigns from the side-lines for too long. This planned roll-out is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa at a press conference. “We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe.”
COVAX notified countries through letters which were sent on 30 January 2021. Amid surging demand for COVID-19 vaccines, the final shipments will be based on production capacities of vaccine manufacturers and the readiness of countries. Recipient countries are required to submit finalized national deployment and vaccination plans to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility.
As of February 3, 2021, a total of 39,735 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the country. 327 of these have succumbed to the diseases while 14,310 patients have recovered from the disease.
The Ministry of Health announced earlier that it already placed an order for 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca Vaccine from the Serum Institute of India which will be used to vaccinate persons aged 50 and above, those with underlying health conditions, health workers, security personnel, and teachers, among other essential services providers.
Under the arrangement, each eligible individual is expected to receive two doses of the vaccine, separated by 28 days. Each dose will cost USD 7(25,523 Shillings), which amounts to USD 14 (51,046 Shillings) per person. Another USD 3 (11,000 Shillings) is charged for international transportation and handling costs by the National Medical Stores, pushing the cost of the vaccine to USD 17 (62,000 Shillings).
The initial batch of vaccines will be given out free in Uganda, but there are calls for the subsequent ones to be paid for by the recipients.
As the Vaccines are awaited, Members of the Health Committee of Parliament this week suggested that the government should not meet the cost of vaccination for people who can afford. Instead, they say, the government should provide the service for those who can prove that they cannot afford the cost.
Patrick Isiagi Opolot told parliament that allowing a window for others to pay for the vaccines will enable the government to raise more funds to procure more vaccines.
“Even when you walk into a government hospital, you find a private wing where you pay money and also a place where you can get free treatment. If the government can do this with serious control, this would be good because I do not think that MPs and big salary earners like permanent secretaries are vulnerable. Those ones should be able to pay,” he said.
— Louis Jadwong (@Jadwong) December 10, 2020
Roll out of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine
The roll-out of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is subject to it being listed for emergency use by the World Health Organisation. The organization is currently reviewing the vaccine and the outcome of the review is expected soon.
In addition, around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries -Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia. This vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
To access an initial limited volume of Pfizer vaccine, countries were invited to submit proposals. Thirteen African countries submitted proposals and were evaluated by a multi-agency committee based on current mortality rates, new cases and trends, and the capacity to handle the ultra-cold chain needs of the vaccine.
“This announcement allows countries to fine-tune their planning for COVID-19 immunization campaigns. We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalize their national vaccine deployment plans. Regulatory processes, cold chain systems and distribution plans need to be in place to ensure vaccines are safely expedited from ports of entry to delivery. We can’t afford to waste a single dose,” said Dr Moeti.
— The Independent (@UGIndependent) January 4, 2021
The initial phase of 90 million doses will support countries to immunize 3 per cent of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021, according to the statement. As production capacity increases and more vaccines become available the aim is to vaccinate at least 20 per cent of Africans by providing up to 600 million doses by the end of 2021.
To complement COVAX efforts, the African Union has secured 670 million vaccine doses for the continent which will be distributed in 2021 and 2022 as countries secure adequate financing. The African Export-Import Bank will facilitate payments by providing advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to USD 2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of countries.