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Africa urgently needs 20m second doses of COVID-19 vaccines – WHO

World Health Organisation (WHO) says Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the next six weeks to get second doses to all who received a first dose.

Covid-19 Vaccine
Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The UN health agency, in a statement on Thursday, May 27, 2021, stated that the continent needed 20 million doses of the vaccine in the next six weeks to get to all who received a first dose.

According to the global health body, a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine gives around 70 per cent protection for at least 12 weeks.

“Data on the protection from one dose after 12 weeks is limited; COVID-19 antibodies have been found in the body up to six months after one dose.

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“The full course provided with a 12-week interval gives 81 per cent protection for an extended period.’’

In addition to this urgent need, it stated that another 200 million doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed COVID-19 vaccine were needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10 per cent of its population by September 2021.

“This follows a call made by WHO Director- General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, at the World Health Assembly, WHO’s governing body earlier this week for all Member States to support a massive vaccination push.

“To date, 28 million COVID-19 doses, of different vaccines, have been administered in Africa, which represents less than two doses administered per 100 people in Africa.

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“Globally, 1.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered.’’

The statement quoted Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, as saying, “As supplies dry up, dose-sharing is an urgent, critical and short-term solution to ensuring that Africans at the greatest risk of COVID-19 get the much-needed protection.

“Africa needs vaccines now. Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.

“It’s too soon to tell if Africa is on the cusp of a third wave.

“However, we know that cases are rising, and the clock is ticking so we urgently appeal to countries that have vaccinated their high-risk groups to speed up the dose-sharing to fully protect the most vulnerable people.”

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France is the first country to share COVID-19 vaccines from its domestic supply, donating over 31,000 doses to Mauritania, with another 74,400 set for imminent delivery.

France has pledged to share half a million more doses with six African countries in the next few weeks.

The European Union and its Member States have pledged over 100 million doses for low-income countries by the end of 2021.

Similarly, the United States of America has pledged to share 80 million doses with lower-income countries, and other high-income countries have expressed interest in sharing vaccines.

By Cecilia Ologunagba

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