All nations should join hands in a global effort to procure and distribute potential vaccines against the coronavirus across the globe, the head of Africa’s disease control body said on Thursday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said 76 rich nations were now committed to joining a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan co-led by the WHO that aims to help buy and fairly distribute the shots.
The United States, however, said it would not join the effort, called COVAX, due to President Donald Trump’s administration’s objection to WHO involvement.
“We are in this together. No country will be safe if any other country in the world still has cases of COVID,” John Nkengasong, the head of the Addis Ababa-based Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa-CDC), told an online news conference.
COVAX aims to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021. It currently has nine COVID-19 vaccine candidates in its portfolio employing a range of different technologies and scientific approaches.
A handful are already in late-stage clinical trials and could have data available by year-end.
It is co-led by GAVI, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and is designed to discourage national governments from hoarding COVID-19 vaccines and to focus on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country.
Through the African Union, Africa has developed a plan to access COVID-19 vaccines when they become available, Nkengasong said, adding that the continent will also hold talks with COVAX, supplementing other talks with individual nations like China.
The continent has fared better-than-expected, health experts and government officials on the continent say, during the first wave of the pandemic, which began in March.
The number of new cases fell 11% in the past four weeks, Nkengasong said, adding that recoveries stood at 80% of the 1.26 million infections reported on the continent so far.
“We are seeing an epidemiological curve that is either stabilising or decreasing, representing a sign of hope,” he said, adding that the picture may not be entirely clear due to an inadequate number of tests.
He, however, cautioned that it was too early for the continent to declare victory against the pandemic.
“We are very careful not to go to a state of complacency,” he said.