- SADC leads Africa in vaccine drive
- Quest for herd immunity gathers pace
- Breakthrough in vaccine supply chain
Southern African countries dominate continental COVID-19 vaccination statistics, with the Seychelles in pole position and Zimbabwe and Eswatini in the top ten.
This is according to figures released by the World Health Organisation’s Vaccine Tracker this week.
Globally, as of May 5, 2021, there had been 153,954,491 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,221,052 deaths. Collectively, the world had administered more than 1,1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines.
While most of these vaccinations have been administered in Europe and North America, African countries have been trying to scale up national inoculation drives.
This has followed an outcry over “vaccine apartheid” by leaders such as Namibian President Hage Geingob, who have thrown the spotlight on how rich countries and their pharmaceutical firms have been hoarding vaccines to the detriment of developing nations.
Nonetheless, SADC member the Seychelles is the most vaccinated country in Africa, according to figures from WHO and the Our World in Data Project.
The Seychelles has fully vaccinated 61.1 percent of its population.
Another SADC member, Zimbabwe, sits seventh in Africa, followed by Eswatini (10th) and Botswana (14th).
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association acting president Dr Johannes Marisa said African countries had benefited much from their good relations with countries like China and India, which had availed significant doses of vaccines to the continent.
“So far so good,” he said. “The only thing is that people are running away from the vaccination process yet in other countries people are actually itching to get vaccinated. In India there are so many queues that are being formed with people waiting to be vaccinated as less than 200 million have been vaccinated out of a population of 1,4 billion.”
In Southern Africa, that quest for herd immunity (ie vaccinating 65 percent-70 percent of a population so that a virus cannot find enough hosts to continue spreading at epidemic scale) has seen SADC member state Botswana lead the region in terms of testing capacity and resting rate.
The deputy co-ordinator of the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force, Professor Mosepele Mosepele, used a televised address this week to announce that the country expected to get about two million doses of vaccines soon for its adult population of 1.6 million people.
Prof Mosepele said Botswana’s testing capacity and rate was two to three times higher than in neighbouring countries, and combining that with mass vaccination could lead to attainment of herd immunity.
He said Botswana had reached agreements with manufactures and suppliers to receive at least 1.9 million doses. Around 1.1 million of these are from Johnson & Johnson, and another 250,000 from Moderna Inc.
The country has already taken delivery of 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from China and more than 60,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Covishield from the COVAX facility and India.
At the time of writing, Botswana had vaccinated more than 47,160 people.
Meanwhile, the growing push to vaccinate as many people as possible in the quest for herd immunity got a big boost this week when the United States granted temporary, targeted waiver of intellectual property protections that apply to COVID-19 vaccines.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that the waiver was a result of a lobby by South Africa and India, on behalf of emerging economies that faced vaccine shortages and production challenges.
“The proposal establishes a global solution to enhance manufacturing and boost supply capacity, and enables co-ordination and access to information currently under patent protection,” President Ramaposa’s office said.
The waiver could open more supply options and end over-reliance on a limited number of suppliers.
President Ramaphosa said, “In light of the growing global consensus, we call on pharmaceutical companies to facilitate sharing of know-how and technology to enable a rapid increase in supply-capacity in order to save lives.”
Prior to this, the SADC Parliamentary Forum had also called on pharmaceutical companies to act in the interest of humanity and not just in the interest of profits, by making it easier for other laboratories to replicate vaccine manufacturing.
Experts believe that the waiver on intellectual property rights would help Africa attain herd immunity.
Reporting by Freddy Mambara in Harare, Mpho Tebele in Gaborone & Tiri Masawi in Windhoek