The World Health Organisation (WHO) has disclosed that about three countries in Africa are being considered for the installation of local production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines.
It further stated that following the pledge by the G7 to donate over $800 million doses of vaccines, it expects the availability of vaccines to improve.
The WHO, however, expressed concerns over the surge in new COVID-19 cases across Africa in the last two weeks – over 53 percent increase.
The WHO Country Representative, Dr. Kazadi Mulombo, made these known in Abuja, during a joint news briefing on COVID-19 vaccination updates of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NHCDA), the WHO and UNICEF.
He said: “Following the decision of India not to export COVID-19 vaccines, as you know, the G7 has also announced when they were addressing the issue of vaccine equity, that there is a push towards lifting the patent and to try and decentralise the vaccine production.
“Currently, there is a consideration to select up to three countries in Africa to install that capacity, so that they will install local production and upscale the production.
“The G7 also pledged more than 800 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be shared through the COVAX mechanism. It is expected that over the next few weeks, the availability of vaccines will improve.
“COVID-19 cases on the African continent will soon pass the 5 million mark and as Africa heads towards a sad milestone and a looming third wave, many African lives are at stake. In the last two weeks, Africa recorded a 53 per cent increase in cases compared with the previous fortnight.
“There are, however, five countries – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia – currently experiencing a resurgence.
“The threat of a third wave of COVID-19 is real and is rising in the African Region, including Nigeria. A rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is, therefore, important, while intensifying COVID-19 preventive measures such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well-ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue.
“While an increasing number of persons in Nigeria are being fully vaccinated, there is a need for all to continue to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions as recommended by the NCDC/PSC.”
He added: “COVAX Facility recently informed that Nigeria has been allocated AstraZeneca/AZD1222 (AZ/AZD1222) vaccine doses. Nigeria is among a group of participants being prioritised to receive the AZ/AZD1222 vaccine due to the negative impact of the SII/Covishield global supply constraints.
“COVAX expects to announce another round of dose allocations where Nigeria may receive further allocations. WHO position on the AstraZeneca vaccine remains the same: the benefits of vaccination are far greater than the risk of the rare side effect.
The vaccine remains a valuable tool in the fight against severe COVID-19 illness and has been shown to reduce severe illness, hospitalisation and reduce deaths due to COVID-19 by over 80 per cent.”