Kenya seeks alternatives to AstraZeneca COVID vaccine after delays
Kenya’s Health ministry said it is in talks with vaccine manufacturers such as Johnson and Johnson as it seeks alternatives to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot after shipment delays of the drug from India.
The country received a batch of AstraZeneca shots through vaccine sharing platform COVAX, which supplies doses to low-income countries and depends on India’s Serum Institute’s exports of AstraZeneca drugs.
“AstraZeneca Vaccine is unlikely to remain the vaccine of choice in Africa because of the delays in shipments currently being experienced from India,” the ministry said on Twitter, attributing the comments to CS Mutahi Kagwe.
On Tuesday, Serum said it would continue to scale up its production of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and restart exports by the end of the year.
At a press briefing Thursday, Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Africa head, said that COVID-19 vaccine shipments to African countries have slowed down to a trickle in May because of the situation in India.
“The continent was expecting 66 million doses through COVAX from February to May, but instead has so far received only 18.2 million,” she said.
Fewer than 2% of Africans had received a dose, Moeti said, compared with 80% in some richer countries.
“As people living in richer countries can hit the reset button this summer and their lives will return to a semblance of normal, in Africa our lives will continue to be on hold,” she said.
The World Health Organization warns delays in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine to countries in Africa are putting lives at risk and threatening the continued spread of the coronavirus on the continent and across borders.
To date, the WHO reports 4.7 million COVID-19 cases across Africa, including 127,000 deaths.
Shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa slowed to a trickle earlier this month. Its main supplier, India’s Serum Institute, retained the doses to tackle a devastating surge of domestic cases.
That has essentially brought the rollout of the life-saving product across Africa to a screeching halt.
So far, the WHO says only 24 million people in a continent of more than one billion have received at least one vaccine dose and 5.5 million have received two doses.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti deplores the inequities that exist between countries that have access to COVID-19 vaccine and those who do not.
In Africa, she says fewer than 2 in 100 people or 2% have received one vaccine dose compared to more than eight out of 10 people or 80% in some high-income countries.
“This means that as people living in richer countries can hit the reset button this summer and their lives will return to a semblance of normal, in Africa our lives will continue to be on hold. We can still catch up and make up for the lost ground, but time is running out,” she said.
Moeti says Africa is also suffering from a severe shortage of money to pay for the operational costs of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
She says urgent action and international solidarity is crucial in ensuring Africa can obtain the vaccines it needs and finance the rollout.
“We welcome the pledge by the United States this week to share 80 million doses with other countries, with a substantial proportion expected to go through COVAX, in addition to recent shipments of vaccines from France to Mauritania, and pledges by several other high-income countries,” she said.
Report by Reuters and VOA
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