Nigeria’s Inflation Rate To Rise To 5th Highest In Sub-Saharan Africa By End Of 2021 – World Bank

 

The World Bank says Nigeria’s inflation rate is expected to rise to 5th highest in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2021, behind only Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Sudan and Angola.

The bank’s Lead Economist for Nigeria, Macro Hernandez, stated this on Tuesday during a presentation of Nigeria’s Development Report for the first six months of 2021, in Abuja.

Read Also: We Have Lifted 10.5m Nigerians Out Of Poverty In Two Years – Buhari

Hernandez also said that the inflation is set to push 7 million more Nigerians into poverty due to falling purchasing power, while over 11 million more Nigerians are expected to lose their jobs.

According to him, insecurity and conflict as well as the COVID-19 pandemic are responsible for the challenges.

World Bank Approves $3bn For Vaccines In Africa

A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP
A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021.
JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

The World Bank has approved three billion dollars to cover vaccination in 32 countries around the world, which includes 15 nations in Africa.

In a statement made at the G7 leaders’ summit in the United Kingdom, the World Bank’s President, David Malpass, said the multilateral finance institution is partnering with the African Union to deploy vaccines for 400 million Africans.

Malpass mentioned that the World Bank Group has committed over 125 billion dollars since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, to combat the economic, health as well as social impacts of the pandemic, which is the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.

Read Also: Nigeria’s Inflation Rate To Rise To 5th Highest In Sub-Saharan Africa By End Of 2021 – World Bank

He also explained that the funding is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump-start a climate-friendly recovery.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Government says the unpredictability of vaccine supply as a result of global shortage remains a huge challenge.

The Minister of Health, Doctor Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this last week during the weekly presidential media chat, saying the country is looking to get a donation of the COVID-19 vaccine from the Covax facility and other countries that no longer have a need for their oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

He hopes that the donation will be gotten in August 2021 at the earliest.

Speaking further the health minister said the local production of the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet feasible owing to the high cost of conducting clinical trials that runs into millions of dollars.

Africa’s COVID-19 Vaccine Access ‘Scandalously Inefficient’- Kagame

A handout picture taken on March 11, 2021, and released by Urugwiro Village, the office of the President, shows Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (L) receiving the first injection of the Covid-19 vaccine at King Faisal hospital in Kigali, Rwanda. (Photo by – / Urugwiro Village / AFP)

 

 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Friday described vaccine distribution in Africa as “scandalously inefficient” and warned against building an “invisible wall” around parts of the world unable to secure jabs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in May said two percent of Covid-19 vaccines globally had been administered in Africa, a continent of over 1.2 billion people.

Kagame said efforts to ensure fair vaccine access, including the WHO-backed Covax initiative, remained “scandalously inefficient” and added that depriving Africa risked prolonging the pandemic.

“The fact that Africa is not receiving vaccines, in the end is not good even for those getting the vaccines,” Kagame told AFP and France Inter in an interview late Friday.

“The backlash will be there, it will come back to them. If we do it equitably, then we have the chance of eradicating it globally.

“I hope we don’t find ourselves in a situation where it’s like building an invisible wall. Those who have been vaccinated saying ‘we need to remain safe so we need to keep away those who are not vaccinated’.

Kagame said it was essential Africa start manufacturing its own vaccines but pointed to hurdles in the way of investment, intellectual property rights and technology.

“These are things that need to be quickly sorted out,” he said.

“Our desire here in Rwanda, we hope we can see vaccine being manufactured here in no less than a period of one year. That is on a very optimistic side.”

In early May, the US expressed support for lifting intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines to speed up production and distribution around the world.

Many EU countries have expressed skepticism about such a move.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who this week gifted Rwanda a batch of vaccines during a state visit, said Friday in South Africa that he agreed to a temporary waiver on patents if it would spur vaccine production in developing countries.

Rwanda has recorded nearly 27,000 cases of Covid-19 and around 350 deaths from the disease, according to the health ministry on May 27.

It has administered 350,400 vaccines.

Osinbajo Asks European Countries To Invest In Africa

A file photo of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo speaking at an event.

 

While investments in fossils are being sustained in wealthier countries, banning gas investments in developing nations raises questions around equity, justice, and inclusion as the global community approaches the Net-zero emission target of 2050.

Therefore, a just, equitable, and inclusive global energy transition especially for developing economies is imperative.

Those were the views expressed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, in his keynote speech today at the 7th Annual New York-based Columbia University Global Energy Summit organized by the Columbia Centre on Global Energy Policy.

This year’s edition which held virtually, focused on shaping the current energy system, what is ahead for energy policy, energy markets, geopolitics, technology, and efforts to reduce emissions while addressing climate change.

According to Prof. Osinbajo, “the global energy transition must be inclusive, equitable and just, taking into account the different realities of various economies and accommodating various pathways to net-zero by 2050.

“Nigeria and countries across Africa are committed to a net-zero future, especially given their vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change, and all have expressed commitment to their national development contributions under the Paris Agreement, however greater support in developing and implementing robust energy transition plans is needed.

“Clearly the Continent will require an unprecedented scale of investments. An energy mix compatible with a 1.5°C pathway would require $40 billion to flow into Sub-Saharan Africa annually; a fourfold increase compared to the $10 billion invested in 2018.”

The VP submitted “that a just energy transition for developing economies is central to the right to sustainable development and poverty eradication as enshrined in relevant global treaties including the Paris Agreement.

He then added with concern “ that globally, we are seeing wealthier nations and institutions banning all public investments in fossil, including natural gas. Examples include the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK) and Denmark to name a few, as well as specific institutions such as the Swedfund from Sweden, CDC from the UK, the European Investment Bank, and the Investment Fund for Developing Countries from Denmark.”

In clear advocacy for a fairer approach, the VP said, “an inclusive and equitable transition will also take into account the principles of common but differentiated responsibility and leaving no one behind, that are enshrined into global treaties around sustainable development and climate action.”

Speaking on the Nigerian context, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “it means building sustainability into our economic planning, and so we have developed an Economic Sustainability Plan, which includes our flagship “Solar Power Naija” programme aiming to electrify 5 million households and 25 million people by 2023 leveraging solar mini-grids and stand-alone systems. We believe in the potential of off-grid renewables to close the energy deficit in Nigeria and across Africa.”

“But we also look to developed countries, the private sector, and development agencies to recognise the potential that a just and clean energy transition can bring to the development of our continent and other developing regions.

“We hope to work jointly towards common goals including the market and environmental opportunity presented by the financing of clean energy assets in growing energy markets,” the Vice President explained.

Emphasizing the need for equity, Prof. Osinbajo said “limiting the development of gas projects, poses dire challenges for African nations, while making an insignificant dent in global emissions.”

Making a case for justice, social justice, and fairness, the VP said “what is often not sufficiently considered in thinking through the transition to net-zero emissions is the critical role that energy, in our case, gas plays in catalyzing economic development and supporting people’s health and livelihoods, especially in poorer countries.

“Natural gas is currently used for industry, fertilizer manufacturing, and cooking – which are more difficult to transition than power generation.”

On the access element of the energy transition, the Vice President explained that “it must be linked with the emission reduction aspect.”

He noted that “pathways to reaching net-zero by 2050 have to include first ending energy poverty by 2030. If energy access issues are left unaddressed, we will continue to see growing energy demand being addressed with high polluting and deforesting fuels such as diesel, kerosene, and firewood.

On her part, the CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, said the funding of projects that will guarantee cleaner energy sources will be critical to the attainment of net-zero by 2050.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Founding Director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, Prof. Jason Bordoff said the annual gathering of energy experts is part of the contributions by the Centre in addressing pressing energy issues and expressed delight in having the Vice President share perspectives at the 2021 summit.

Other participants at the summit include American energy expert and Vice Chairman of IHS Markit, Daniel Yergin, who moderated a fireside chat with the Vice President after his keynote address, and Ms Caitlin Norfleet, the Event Manager of the Center on Global Energy Policy, among others.

CAF Intensifies Effort For $1bn Lifeline To Revamp Football Infrastructure In Africa

In this photo taken in May 2021, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, is seen as AfDB President, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, have a chat.

 

The Confederation of African Football has intensified efforts for a $1billion lifeline for the wholesale revamp of football infrastructure on the African continent.

President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Member of the CAF Emergency Committee, Amaju Pinnick, led the drive at a crucial meeting in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

“It was a very important meeting, as we started the push for our objective of raising $1billion to change the face of football infrastructure in Africa,” the NFF boss said.

He added, “You will recall that the CAF President made a statement regarding the need to raise this money for the sake of football infrastructure on our continent some weeks back. This new CAF regime is a doing team, not just a talking one. So, we have set out to work.”

Pinnick, who is also a member of FIFA Council, was accompanied by the president of the world’s football governing body, Gianni Infantino, and CAF President, Dr Patrice Motsepe, to pay a courtesy visit to the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina.

Also at the meeting were CAF General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, and Ivorian football legend Didier Drogba.

In this picture taken in May 2021, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, poses for a photograph with AfDB President, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina.

 

“The President of FIFA was there as solidarity for the steps we are taking. We had a very useful and positive meeting with the President of the African Development Bank; further talks are lined up.

“We are also going to meet with other institutions and individuals who have the means and the willingness to help African football to realise its potentials and break into the big time,” Pinnick stated.

The meeting in the Ivorian capital came only a few days after the CAF inspection team released a report stating categorically that 22 of the 54 countries in Africa have no football pitch that meets the standard to host international matches.

Less Than 2% Of World’s COVID-19 Vaccines Administered In Africa – WHO

A file photo of a medical doctor receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at the National Hospital in Abuja on March 5, 2021.

 

Less than two per cent of the 690 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered so far globally have been in Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

The United Nations health agency decried the situation where most of the African countries received vaccines only five weeks ago and in small quantities.

While 45 African countries have received vaccines, 43 of them have begun vaccinations and nearly 13 million of the 31.6 million doses delivered have been administered.

However, the pace of vaccine rollout is not uniform, the WHO added, noting that 93 per cent of the doses were given in 10 countries.

 

‘Fair Access To Vaccines’

Vaccine rollout preparedness, including training of health workers, prelisting priority groups and coordination has helped some countries quickly reach a large proportion of the targeted high-risk population groups, such as health workers, and the 10 countries that have vaccinated the most have used at least 65 per cent of their supplies, data revealed.

“Although progress is being made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

She added, “Limited stocks and supply bottlenecks are putting COVID-19 vaccines out of reach of many people in this region. Fair access to vaccines must be a reality if we are to collectively make a dent on this pandemic.”

Once delivered, vaccine rollout in some countries has been delayed by operational and financial hurdles or logistical difficulties such as reaching remote locations.

WHO, on its part, says it is supporting countries to tackle the challenges by reinforcing planning and coordination, advocating more financial resources, as well as setting up effective communications strategies to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

It stated that the delays do not only affect vaccine delivery to priority targets, but they also affect the expansion of vaccinations to the rest of the population, some of whom have expressed eagerness to receive the doses.

In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP
In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP

 

Playing A Catch-Up?

This comes as WHO sets a target to vaccinate health workers and other priority groups in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021.

“Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination catch-up, and the gap is widening. While we acknowledge the immense burden placed by the global demand for vaccines, inequity can only worsen scarcity.

“More than a billion Africans remain on the margins of this historic march to overcome the pandemic,” Dr Moeti said.

Through the COVAX Facility, 16.6 million vaccine doses – mainly AstraZeneca – have been delivered to African countries.

This week, WHO’s Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety concluded that the link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the occurrence of rare blood clots was plausible, but not yet confirmed.

The position was as a result of the announcement by the European Medicines Agency that unusual blood clots should be listed as very rare side-effects of the vaccine.

Among the almost 200 million individuals who have received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine around the world, cases of blood clots and low platelets are extremely low.

However, the Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety has continued to gather and review further data while carefully monitoring the rollout of all COVID-19 vaccines.

Based on current information, WHO considers that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks and that countries in Africa should continue to vaccinate people with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There have been about 4.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the African continent and 114,000 people have died.

In the past two months, the region has seen a period of around 74,000 new cases per week, the WHO said

While Kenya is experiencing a third wave, the epidemic is showing an upward trend in 14 other African countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Rwanda, and Tunisia.

J&J To Deliver Up To 400 Million COVID-19 Vaccines To Africa

Johnson & Johnson vaccine vials against the COVID-19 coronavirus are seen at the Klerksdorp Hospital as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign on February 18, 2021. Phill Magakoe / AFP
Johnson & Johnson vaccine vials against the COVID-19 coronavirus are seen at the Klerksdorp Hospital as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign on February 18, 2021.
Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

Up to 400 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine will be made available to African countries, the US pharmaceutical giant said Monday.

The availability of the single-shot vaccine will be subject to national regulatory approvals in the African Union’s 55 member states, with the first shipments expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2021.

“No one is safe until everyone is safe, and we have been committed to equitable, global access to new Covid-19 vaccines,” J&J’s CEO Alex Gorsky said in a statement.

The company said Janssen Pharmaceutica, a J&J subsidiary, had entered into an agreement with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) to initially make available up to 220 million doses of its vaccine.

AVAT can order an additional 180 million doses, for a combined total of up to 400 million doses through 2022.

READ ALSO: Pandemic Blamed For Lack Of VAR In World Cup Qualifiers After Ronaldo Fury

J&J says its vaccine candidate protects against Covid-19 in broad geographical regions — including those with new variants of the disease.

In a global trial of almost 40,000 people, the J&J vaccine’s efficacy against severe disease was 85.4 percent, but it fell to 66.1 percent when including moderate forms of the disease.

But the vaccine has won praise for its single dosage and because it does not need to be frozen — unlike the shots from Moderna and Pfizer — making distribution much simpler.

AFP

 

COVID-19: Africa’s Death Toll Surpasses 100,000

Africa is battling a second wave of the pandemic but experts believe the continent’s death might be higher than reported.  Michele Spatari / AFP

 

Africa on Thursday recorded more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, a grim milestone likely to understate the real toll, as the continent of 1.2 billion people battles a second wave of infections.

The 54 countries in the region have a death toll of 100,000 from 3,793,660 reported cases, according to an AFP tally.

The continent, relatively spared by the pandemic, is the last except Oceania to reach the threshold of 100,000 deaths, which Europe crossed in April 2020.

South Africa — the worst hit African country — rolled out a mass testing campaign at the start of the pandemic.

To date, the country has recorded nearly 1.5 million cases and more than 48,000 deaths.

READ ALSO: EU Tells Five Countries To Codify Anti-Racism Law

But those figures, based on daily reports communicated by health authorities, only reflect a fraction of the actual case load, health specialists say.

“The cases are clearly under-reported because of poor access to healthcare facilities and under-reporting of milder cases,” South African virologist Barry Schoub, also a member of the Scientific Council at the South African Ministry of Health told AFP.

Understaffed health facilities and lack of means have meant many African countries have been unable to do mass testing.

“Many countries have mainly PCR tests in the capitals. And the further one moves away from the urban centres, the less there are tests,” explained French epidemiologist Emmanuel Baron from Doctors Without Borders.

“It is a disease that can go unnoticed with asymptomatic patients, or with symptoms that can be confused with others,” he added.

– Covid found in pawpaw –
In Zimbabwe, a country with a devastated economy and mismanaged health system, hospitals are filled with Covid patients, exhausted doctors and overwhelmed nurses. But the official number of cases remains low.

Tanzania stopped testing in May 2020 after claiming it had found a positive Covid case in a pawpaw, a quail and even a goat. The Tanzanian government last released official figures in April.

“If someone had told me a year ago that we, as a continent, would see 100,000 deaths from this infection, I probably would not have believed it,” John Nkengasong, the Africa Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), told reporters on Thursday.

The toll in Africa is, however, significantly lower than in Europe, the world’s most affected region, with 818,912 deaths recorded so far. The other regions that are badly hit are Latin America with 649,006 deaths and the United States and Canada 512,295 deaths.

After a sharp increase in January, Africa’s figures have fallen sharply in the past few weeks. Over the last seven days, the continent recorded 3,054 deaths, a drop of 18 percent from the previous week.

At the height of the pandemic in January, the continent had 906 deaths per day.

– No disaster –
While coronavirus figures are clearly underestimated, “we have not seen a health disaster in Africa to date”, said Baron.

Several studies on antibodies, which make it possible to detect whether a person who is recovered has previously been exposed to the virus, are underway in many African countries and should provide a better idea of the impact of the pandemic in the region.

South Africa, where almost all of the latest cases are attributed to a variant of the virus known to be more contagious and which has spread widely, represents nearly half of the deaths and reported cases on the continent.

The other African countries that are most affected are Egypt (10,150 deaths from 175,677 cases) and Morocco (8,524 deaths from 480,056 cases).

South Africa is also the country with most Covid-19 fatalities on the continent, counting 82 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, ahead of Tunisia (65 deaths) and Eswatini (55).

Lagging behind in the vaccination race, the continent’s leading industrial powerhouse administered its first vaccines on Wednesday.

Globally, Covid-19 has caused more than 109 million infections and over 2.4 million deaths since the start of the epidemic in Wuhan in China in December 2019.

AFP

Ebola: Profile Of A Prolific Killer

 

A fact file on the Ebola virus that has plunged Guinea into an “epidemic situation” according to a senior health official, and which has killed more than 15,000 people since 1976.

Origins

Ebola was first identified in central Africa in 1976. The tropical virus was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo — then known as Zaire.

Five of the virus species are known to cause disease in humans — Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, Reston and Tai Forest.

The first three species have resulted in serious African outbreaks.

Transmission

The virus’ natural reservoir animal is probably the bat, which does not itself fall ill, but can pass the germ on to humans who hunt it for “bushmeat”.

Other dinnertime favourites in parts of Africa — chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines — are also suspected of transmitting Ebola.

Among humans, the virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person. This can include touching a sick or dead person, and likely also sexual intercourse.

Those infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear. They become more and more contagious until just after their death, which poses great risks during funerals.

Death rates are high, at around 50 per cent on average of those infected, and up to 90 per cent for some epidemics, the World Health Organization (WHO) data shows.

Read Also: Guinea Records Seven Ebola Cases As Health Chief Calls Outbreak An ‘Epidemic’

Symptoms

Following an incubation period of between two and 21 days, Ebola develops into a high fever, weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat.

The initial symptoms are often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

After-effects have often been observed in survivors, including arthritis, problems with vision, eye inflammation and hearing difficulties.

Treatment

A vaccine developed by the US group Merck Shape and Dohme was found to be very effective in a major study carried out in Guinea in 2015.

It was pre-qualified by the WHO and more than 300,000 doses have been used during a vaccination programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

A second experimental vaccine developed by the US group Johnson & Johnson was introduced preventively in October 2019 in areas that had not been affected by the virus and more than 20,000 people were inoculated.

Worst epidemic (2013-2016)

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak began in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to two neighbouring West African countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

That outbreak killed more than 11,300 people out of nearly 29,000 registered cases, according to WHO estimates.

10th and 11th DR Congo epidemics

The 10th epidemic began on August 1, 2018 in the North Kivu province of DR Congo, and was declared a global health threat in July 2019 by the WHO.

It was declared over in June 2020 by DR Congo authorities after around 2,280 people had died, making it Africa’s second-worst Ebola outbreak ever.

An 11th Ebola epidemic began that month in the Equator province and was declared over on November 18, with 55 deaths.

“Resurgence” in DR Congo and “epidemic situation in Guinea 

On February 7, the DR Congo said a resurgence of the virus had been identified in an eastern part of the country.

A week later, a senior health official in Guinea said that country was in an “epidemic situation” after seven cases were confirmed in the southeast, three of which had resulted in deaths.

They were the first Ebola fatalities in Guinea since 2016.

A local WHO official said the organisation would send vaccines quickly to help keep the virus from spreading.

South Africa Goes For Johnson & Johnson Vaccine – Minister

File: CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

South Africa will begin its coronavirus inoculation campaign with Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the health minister said on Wednesday, after withholding the Oxford/AstraZeneca formula over doubts about effectiveness.

The country worst-hit by the pandemic in Africa has suspended its vaccine rollout — meant to begin with Oxford/AstraZeneca this week — after scientists found the shot failed to prevent mild and moderate illness caused by a local virus variant known as 501Y.V2.

“Given the outcomes of the efficacy studies…, (government) will continue with the planned phase one vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccines instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a press briefing.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant.”

He did not say when immunisation would begin.

To date South Africa has ordered nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, of which a small shipment is expected to arrive next week.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

However, the first consignment will probably be used as “research stock,” Mkhize said.

South African pharmaceutical giant Aspen, a contracted Johnson & Johnson vaccine manufacturer, is striving to produce its first doses next month.

“They are very determined to fast-track this production in South Africa,” Mkhize said, adding that the stock would then be available in April.

South Africa’s vaccination delay has set back an ambitious aim to inoculate around 40 million people — 67 percent of the population — by the end of 2021.

The country was slow to catch on to the global vaccine scramble and only received its first jabs on February 1.

The one million AstraZeneca shots were produced by the Serum Institute of India, from which an additional 500,000 doses have been purchased.

South Africa is considering either selling or swapping these doses with countries facing the original strain of coronavirus, said the minister, insisting that nothing would go to waste.

Scientists have suggested administering some of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to several thousand people in South Africa to see if it can still prevent severe infection from the new variant.

Additional vaccines are being secured from US drugmaker Pfizer, and through the World Health Organisation-backed Covax facility and the African Union.

South Africa is emerging from a second wave of coronavirus infections largely fuelled by its virus variant, said to be more transmissible than the original form.

The country has recorded close to 1.5 million cases and over 46,800 deaths.

Biden Promises Partnership With Africa, Hopes To Attend Next AU Summit

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration's proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Joe Biden on Friday promised partnership with Africa and said he hoped to attend the next African Union summit, an about-face in US interest in a continent largely ignored by his predecessor.

In a video message to this weekend’s African Union summit, being held virtually due to Covid, the new US leader promised to work with Africans on his key priorities of fighting the virus and climate change and also to advance diplomacy to end the continent’s conflicts.

“None of this is going to be easy, but the United States stands ready now to be your partner in solidarity, support and mutual respect,” Biden said.

READ ALSO: Africa To Receive Nearly 90m COVID-19 Vaccines In February

“I hope I can be with you next time in person.”

In what have become early themes of his presidency, Biden vowed to promote democracy and the rights of sexual minorities — which are frequently under attack in Africa.

Biden said he wanted to work with Africa on “a future committed to investing in our democratic institutions and promoting the human rights of all people — women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities and people of every ethnic background, religion and heritage.”

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump was the first president since Ronald Reagan not to visit Africa during his tenure and rose to prominence by promoting the falsehood that his predecessor Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Trump notoriously was quoted as using an expletive to describe African nations when explaining why he did not want non-white immigrants to the United States.

 

AFP

COVID-19: Africa To Receive Nearly 90m Vaccines In February

A nurse draws Covishield, AstraZeneca's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India's Serum Institute, at the Baruipur sub-divisional hospital on the outskirts of Kolkata on January 18, 2021. Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP
Less than 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are in Africa, according to the UN. Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP

 

Africa will receive nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from COVAX in February 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) African region said on Thursday. 

Africa has watched other regions start COVID-19 vaccination campaigns from the side-lines for too long,” WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti said during a briefing on the roll-out of vaccines in the continent. “This planned roll-out is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines. We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe.”

READ ALSO: COVID-19 And Conflicts Compete For Attention At African Union Summit

In what could the organisation described as the largest ever mass vaccination campaign in Africa, the agency noted that the vaccines would come mainly from the AstraZeneca/Oxford AZD1222 vaccine. However, the rollout is subject to the vaccine being approved for emergency use by the WHO. The review is expected to be received soon, the agency added. 

These doses are targeted at vaccinating 3% of the African population who are most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021. 

READ ALSO: [COVID-19] Africa Left Behind In Vaccination, Says UN

Equally, about 320 000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four nations – Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia. These countries are able to store and distribute the COVID-19 vaccines at minus 70 degrees Celsius, the agency said.

And as COVID-19 vaccine production capacity increases, the WHO said its target is to vaccinate at least 20% of Africans by providing up to 600 million doses by the end of the year.

Full Statement From WHO African Region

COVAX has notified countries in Africa of the estimated dose allocation for the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine delivery. The global initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) aims to start shipping nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the continent in February, in what will be Africa’s largest ever mass vaccination campaign.

The roll-out of the AstraZeneca/Oxford AZD1222 vaccine is subject to the vaccine being listed for emergency use by WHO. The organization is currently reviewing the vaccine and the outcome of the review is expected soon.

“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. “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.
In addition, around 320 000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries -Cabo 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 initial phase of 90 million doses will support countries to immunize 3% of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021. As production capacity increases and more vaccines become available the aim is to vaccinate at least 20% 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 US$2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of countries.

Dr Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Hon. Khumbize Kandondo Chiponda, Minister of Health, Malawi and Hon. Dr Daniel Ngamije, Minister of Health, Rwanda. Also on hand to answer questions were Dr Richard Mihigo, Immunization and Vaccine Development Programme Coordinator, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, Regional Virologist, WHO Regional Office for Africa.