Rosie Awori (LJI)
Previous pandemics have often found African countries on the outside looking in, when it comes to treatment however, this time round African nations are hoping to change this narrative as far as COVID-19 is concerned.
On the continent, the numbers haven’t been as devastating as compared to the United States or other European countries.
Also African nations have chosen look to Russia and surprisingly China for a vaccine. The appeal of the Chinese vaccines for developing countries is obvious, considering the challenges facing the recipient countries in importing Western mRNA vaccines such as tropical heat, distance and the scarcity of ultra-cold freezers required by other vaccines. The Chinese inactivated vaccines seem favored for mass inoculation in Africa, as China-developed inactivated vaccines can be delivered by off-grid refrigerators, which do not require advanced electricity.
The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna rely on mRNA technology which needs to be stored at around minus 70 degrees Celsius and minus 20 degrees, respectively. Such a requirement presents a challenge for African and Latin American countries, where poor electricity infrastructure cannot support the ultra-cold freezers during transport.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union have discussed Covid-19 vaccine trial partnerships with both China and Russia, part of an effort to ensure Africa is not last in the queue for vaccines when they become available.
“We are not limiting ourselves to any particular partner,” John Nkengasong, head of Africa CDC, is quoted as saying. “As a continent of 1.2 billion people, we are willing to work with any partner who adheres to our strategy plan for vaccine development and access in Africa.”
Anvisa, a health regulator, is assessing the CoronaVac shot developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech. The health regulator noted that while the vaccine has had an emergency use authorization in China since June, the country’s authorities have not been transparent about the criteria used for granting this authorization.
China has used the drug to vaccinate up to a million people under its emergency use program.
Meanwhile in Uganda the government authorized a community of Chinese nationals to import up to 4,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine for their own use.
The businessmen based out of the Liao Shen industrial park in central Uganda had written to the ministry of health asking for authorization to bring in the vaccines.
“They wanted it for themselves, we said strictly limit it to yourselves, we do not want it to spread in the population,” Uganda’s minister of health Jane Ruth Aceng was quoted as saying.
The United Arab Emirates said the vaccine has 86% efficacy, citing an interim analysis of late-stage clinical trials. While Morocco said it was ordering up to 10 million doses of the vaccine.