U.S. biotech firm Moderna, is currently in a leading position in the global race to find a vaccine against the coronavirus. Photo: Supplied.

WHO calls for equal access to future Covid-19 vaccines in Africa

“Too often, African countries end up at the back of the queue for new technologies, including vaccines. These life-saving products must be available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay.”

DURBAN – The World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa joined immunization experts in urging the international community and countries in Africa to take concrete actions to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, as researchers around the world race to find effective protection against the virus.

Speaking about Covid-19 vaccine development in Africa during a virtual press conference on Thursday,  Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said: “Too often, African countries end up at the back of the queue for new technologies, including vaccines. These life-saving products must be available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay.”

Globally, there are nearly 150 Covid-19 vaccine candidates and currently, 19 are in clinical trials. South Africa is the first country on the continent to start a clinical trial with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg testing a vaccine developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute in the United Kingdom. 

The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is expected to involve 2000 volunteers aged 18–65 years and include some people living with HIV. The vaccine is already undergoing trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil with thousands of participants.

“As the world focuses on finding a vaccine for Covid-19, we must ensure people do not forget that dozens of lifesaving vaccines already exist. These vaccines should reach children everywhere in Africa – no one can be left behind,” said Professor Helen Rees, Chair of the  African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG).

Initial analysis of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on immunization in the African Region suggests that millions of African children are likely to be negatively impacted, as routine immunization services and vaccination campaigns for polio, cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningitis and human papillomavirus have been disrupted.

“I encourage more countries in the region to join these trials so that the contexts and immune response of populations in Africa are factored into studies,” said Dr Moeti. 

 

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