In Brief: Over half of African nations to start COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in coming weeks

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South Africa received the first delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses at OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng on Feb. 17. Photo by: Reuters

More than half the countries on the African continent are expected to roll out COVID-19 vaccine campaigns in the coming weeks, according to World Health Organization Africa Regional Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.

Who will get the vaccines: 24 African nations have laid the groundwork for vaccine shipments through the facility in the coming weeks, Moeti said during a press conference, after finalizing pre-shipment arrangements. This includes finalizing national vaccination deployment plans, approving import permits, and signing indemnity and liability agreements with vaccine manufacturers, said Dr. Richard Mihigo, immunization and vaccine development program coordinator for the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

On Wednesday, Ghana received the first global shipment of vaccines from the COVAX Facility, the global initiative aimed at equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines. A shipment of doses is also expected to arrive in Côte d'Ivoire on Friday.

In addition to vaccines secured through the COVAX Facility, the African Union has also procured vaccines and some countries have made bilateral arrangements to gain access to vaccines independently. African countries that have started vaccinations without the help of the facility include South Africa, Senegal, Morocco, Egypt, Seychelles, and Guinea, said John Nkengasong, director at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: “This is a much-awaited leap forward for African nations that have spent months preparing from the sidelines while wealthier countries raced ahead with vaccination,” Moeti said.

What’s next: Countries will receive doses on a rolling basis, based on manufacturing capacity. The facility aims to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of this year.

“While celebrating this feat of solidarity, there is still a need for tremendous investment in equity, including sharing of surplus doses by wealthier countries,” she said.

About the author

  • Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is a global health reporter based in Nairobi. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, and Bloomberg News, among others. Sara holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2018, part of a Vice News Tonight on HBO team that received an Emmy nomination in 2018 and received the Philip Greer Memorial Award from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2014. She has reported from over a dozen countries.