The decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) to grant Chinese manufactured vaccine – Sinovac the emergency use certification has been praised by health authorities in Africa.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control (Africa CDC) is the latest to laud the move. John Nkengasong, the Director of the African Union’s public health agency noted that the approval came at the right time given that Sinovac is a whole virus vaccine that can easily be rolled out in a resource-limited setting.
“We can only be optimistic and hopeful that the new vaccine will help us increase the uptake of the vaccines in the continent.” He said
Speaking during his weekly briefing on the covid-19 situation in the continent, the Africa CDC Director said the greenlight represents good news to Africa because “the Chinese vaccine that has just been provided with emergency use authorization by WHO will also be engaging with COVAX so that they can make available the vaccines to the facility,”
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According to Nkengasong, a virologist by profession, the Chinese vaccine will improve Africa’s ability to inoculate its populations. He says the dose will diversify the continent’s options to access vaccines, which up to now, had been extremely constrained by the covid-19 crisis in India.
“With the new vaccine arriving our options and risks will diminish. We hope that will happen quickly.” Nkengasong told the journalists.
While announcing its decision to approve the Chinese vaccine, WHO indicated that Sinovac serum is easy to store and therefore easy to manage, and particularly suitable for countries with few resources.
And this, according to Nkengasong, makes the vaccine ideal for the continent given the conditions.
At the same time, the Africa CDC boss allayed fears that Sinovac and some other vaccines recently cleared for use for immunization in the continent fall short of the required efficacy standards.
“The new vaccines, once approved in terms of safety and efficacy, are good and they are safe. They are efficacious, it’s a question of each country fitting them into their vaccination plan.” He told a news conference in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.
According to Nkengasong, African countries should take the earliest opportunity to acquire the doses for use as soon as they are availed.
“I would encourage countries not to exclude any vaccine but make it part of your entire vaccination strategy and implementation plan.” He said
He said the limited supply of vaccines in the continent is a serious issue. He charged that it’s even a greater moral issue that there are countries that have refused to release surplus doses of vaccines in their possession even though there are millions of people in urgent need.
“They should be on the right side of history. My message is, distribute those doses you are sitting on now so that history can record it that you did the right thing at the right time.” He said
Nkengasong rallied the African people to embrace the jab even as he gave assurance that administering even one dose will offer much-needed protection.
“There is no doubt about that. We have seen this over and over including in Israel which was among the first countries to vaccinate quickly where immediately after the first dose you saw that the rates were decreasing,” He said
According to CDC, the total vaccine doses so far administered in the continent stand at 38 million, with about 60 percent of vaccine supplies already used. Only 0.5 percent of the continent has received full vaccine dosage.
The continent has so far registered 4.8 million cases of Covid-19, representing 2.9 percent of the global cases. Recoveries stand at 4.4 million while 121,000 deaths have occurred.