Zambia preps for vaccine rollout

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Lusaka – The director of Zambia’s National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI), Professor Victor Mukonka, says the country is preparing to rollout COVID-19 vaccines sourced by the African Union for its member states.

Prof Mukonka also said the government was working out modalities of making vaccines affordable to the citizenry.

He said, “We have been assured of the doses coming through next month with help from the AU, and our prime targets are the frontline health workers, journalists and others that are constantly in contact with the people.”

The vaccines cost US$10,55 each, and a person needs two doses to complete the regimen.

“The major costs will be borne by the respective Governments and discussions are around that aspect, and efforts are underway to ensure most people have access to the vaccine even if it means subsidising,” Prof Mukonka said.

On fears that drug manufacturers were either using Africans as guinea pigs with the vaccine, or that it would be used to reduce the continent’s population, Zambia’s Health Minister Dr Jonas Chanda said: “What I can assure you is that the vaccine will not come to Zambia through the back door. We’ll have to take it to the cabinet for approval and we’ll ensure that we follow the whole process. The Government will be transparent and we’ll will not hide anything about the vaccine development and procedures.”

And this week, World Health Organisation Africa regional director Dr Matshidiso Moeti called for concerted efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines.

During a webinar on “Preparing African Countries for the COVID-19 Vaccine”, Dr Moeti pointed out critical issues that could impede African countries’ preparedness to make vaccines accessible to vulnerable populations. These included funding gaps, weak health systems, poor supply chain infrastructure and undefined eligibility and prioritisation criteria. Experts pointed out that vaccinating 60 percent of Africa’s population would require an outlay of anything between US$8 billion and U$$16 billion.

They called for solid plans on who would administer vaccines, which were the priority populations and how would they be reached, and record-keeping and reporting systems.

Experts also said governments and health authorities should not let the COVID-19 emergency detract from regular immunisation drives, particularly those targeting child killer diseases.

The World health Organisation aims to avail the vaccine for the new coronavirus to Africa by February, and the target is to vaccinate more than two billion people this year.

As of January 19, Africa had recorded 3,3 million COVID-19 infections, 80,939 deaths and well over 2,7 million recoveries.

The three pillars of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 are limiting transmission, preventing deaths, and laying the foundation for socio-economic recovery to get the integration agenda back on track following the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

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