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Africa's vaccine rollout steadily gathers speed

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-02 09:55
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Workers offload boxes of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines as the country receives its first batch of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines under COVAX scheme, in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire on Feb 26, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

African countries have accelerated their vaccination drives against COVID-19 over the past week.

In a boost for so-called vaccine equity, Cote d'Ivoire became the second country on the continent to receive vaccine supplies from the COVAX facility. COVAX is an initiative launched by the World Health Organization with partners in a bid to ensure the world's most vulnerable people can get vaccinated.

Under the initiative, 504,000 doses of a vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca arrived in the Cote d'Ivoire capital Abidjan on Friday.

Two days earlier, Ghana became the first African country to get supplies from COVAX, with 600,000 doses of the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine.

On Friday, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa, said the continent has stepped up procurement of vaccines to inoculate groups at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.

"It is good news to learn that more countries in Africa are receiving COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX initiative," Moeti said. "Over half a million vaccines just arrived in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, and will be rolled out among frontline health workers in the coming days. This is another step toward vaccine equity."

In South Africa, the country with most cases and deaths on the continent, the government has secured 11 million doses of a vaccine from Johnson& Johnson and 20 million doses from Pfizer. It is also seeking 12 million vaccine doses from COVAX.

Risk-adjusted strategy

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the figures on Sunday at an update on the country's risk-adjusted strategy to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Ramaphosa said that in the 10 days since South Africa launched its coronavirus vaccination program, more than 67,000 health workers had been vaccinated.

"A new batch of 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in the country yesterday, and we are steadily increasing the number of doses administered each day," Ramaphosa said.

In Zimbabwe, more than 15,000 workers have received a vaccine from Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm since the start of its inoculation program on Feb 18, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said in a statement on Saturday night.

Kenya is among those countries expecting to receive a first shipment of coronavirus vaccines this week. It is awaiting 1.02 million doses of the Oxford vaccine on Tuesday.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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