Panafrican News Agency

AU shrugs off hesitancy debate, warns vaccine ‘famine’ more acute in Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The African Union (AU) has played down fears of emerging vaccine hesitance, pandemic fatigue and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus, warning that failure to release funding for the acquisition of 720 million doses to support urgent vaccinations was more alarming.

AU Special Envoy to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) Strive Masiyiwa said the international community pledged to mobilize 720 million vaccines to help the continent vaccinate more people to stop the spread of the deadly virus but the pledge had not materialized.

“The international community has not met its obligations to avail the 720 million doses of the vaccines under the COVAX facility while we as the African countries undertook to buy vaccines to vaccinate 30% of our population. The number of 30 million doses secured is lower,” the AU envoy told reporters.

Amid the constant bashing for their hesitance to free the vaccine manufacturing and distribution, the AU said it was receiving positive signals from France, the European Union, Germany and the United States which have undertaken to avail varied amounts of doses to ramp up the vaccination drive.

The European Union has pledged to provide 200 million doses of the vaccines to the African Union Task Team in a cooperative arrangement reached after negotiations, the AU Special Envoy said.

The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Director John Nkengasong said the continental body was doing its best to solve the problem of “vaccine famine” amid growing demand for the vaccinations to reach people at risk of suffering from the burdensome virus.

“The more we delay, the more we have the possibility of having mutations of the virus as it happens with other diseases including HIV/AIDS. The prevention methods should continue to be put in place while we continue to ramp up the vaccination campaigns. We need comprehensive solutions,” Nkengasong told reporters during the weekly pandemic briefing on Thursday.

The Africa CDC official said although fears were emerging the vaccines did not stop those vaccinated from spreading the virus or getting infected after the vaccination, obtaining an injection still remained the best solution because the vaccines were effective in curbing severe disease.

“The Delta variant infects more than the Alfa variant but we do not have evidence that it kills more. Its effects would be lesser with vaccinations. Our best effort would be to vaccinate 60% of the population because the vaccines have been designed to reduce the severity of the disease,” Nkengasong said.

The AU official said evidence from various African countries where the virus had had severe effects on the population showed that millions of people were rushing to get vaccinated but were unable to get the vaccines because of supply challenges and the failure by the authorities to plan for the cost of the medical personnel administering the vaccines to the larger population.

“We are dealing with the vaccine famine rather than vaccine hesitancy. We know the demand has been picking up pace. For example, Senegal has increased the number of people getting vaccinated daily from 2000 to 50,000 daily. There are long queues of those who want to be vaccinated in Morocco and Kenya,” Nkengasong said.

-0- PANA AO/RA 2Sept2021