Brazzaville – As the race to find a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine shows increasing promise, a new World Health Organization (WHO) shows that Africa is far from ready for the continent’s largest vaccination process ever.
All 47 countries in the African region of the WHO have received the WHO’s tool for assessing vaccine readiness, intended for use by Ministries of Health, with the support of WHO and UNICEF. It provides a roadmap for countries to implement COVID-19 vaccination and covers ten key areas: planning and coordination, resources and funding, vaccine regulations, service delivery, training and supervision, monitoring and evaluation, vaccine logistics, vaccine safety and supervision, and communication and community engagement.
Forty countries have updated the instrument and provided data to the WHO. An analysis found that based on the self-reports by the countries, the African region has an average score of 33% for a rollout of COVID-19 vaccine, which is far below the desired criterion of 80%.
“The biggest vaccination operation in the history of Africa is around the corner, and African governments urgently need to increase preparedness. Planning and preparation will bring about this unprecedented effort, and we need active leadership and involvement of the highest levels of government with a solid, comprehensive national coordination plans and systems have been put in place, ‘says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa.
WHO, together with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation and other partners, is working to ensure equitable access to vaccines in Africa through the COVAX facility, the vaccine pillar of the WHO Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. Once vaccines are licensed and approved, COVAX will work to ensure sufficient doses to initially protect 20% of the African population.
However, the WHO analysis of the country’s readiness data finds that only 49% have identified and plan to achieve the priority populations for vaccination, and 44% have coordination structures. Only 24% have adequate resource and funding plans, 17% have data collection and monitoring tools ready and only 12% plan to communicate with communities to build trust and boost the demand for vaccination.
“The development of a safe and effective vaccine is only the first step in a successful implementation,” said Dr Moeti. “If communities are not on board and are convinced that a vaccine will protect their health, we will make little progress. It is critical that countries reach out to communities and hear their concerns and give them a voice in the process. “
The WHO estimates that the cost of rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine on the African continent to population populations will be around US $ 5.7 billion. It does not include an additional cost of 15% – 20% for injectables and the delivery of vaccines, which require trained health workers, supply chain and logistics and community mobilization. These costs are based on estimates of the COVAX facility of the average vaccine price at US $ 10.55 per dose and that a two-dose regimen will be required.
WHO and partners have recently issued guidelines on COVID-19 vaccination planning and deployment for national governments, with the aim of helping them design strategies for the implementation, implementation and monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines and their strategies and funding better integrate to increase efficiency.
Dr Moeti spoke at a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group today. Professor Helen Rees, executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, is chair of the African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) and chair of the South African Regulatory Authority for Health Products. Other speakers were Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, Director Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and MRC / UVRI and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit; and Professor Fredrick N Were, Perinatal and Neonatal Medicine, University of Nairobi and Chief Research Scientist, Kenya’s Pediatric Research Consortium.