AU calls for ‘predictable supply’ of Covid vaccines as WHO warns jab inequity will lengthen crisis

ETHIOPIA – The World Health Organization (WHO), the African Union, Unicef, GAVI, the vaccine alliance, and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a joint statement urging countries to commit to new standards when donating Covid vaccines.

With the continent receiving short supply of the vaccines, the goal of immunizing 70% of the African population hangs in limbo, putting lives at risk not only in Africa but round the world.

While other sources of supply are increasing, dose donations have been an important source of supply, but the quality of donations needs to improve.

The group stated that immediate action is required because the current system of donations is “ad hoc” and is impeding Africa’s efforts to expand its vaccine program.

To date, over 90 million donated doses have been delivered to the continent via COVAX and AVAT and millions more via bilateral arrangements.

It comes as the World Health Organization’s Director-General warns that vaccine equity is required to end the global health crisis.

The majority of the donations to-date have been ad hoc, provided with little notice and short shelf lives,” they wrote. “This has made it extremely challenging for countries to plan vaccination campaigns and increase absorptive capacity.”

The statement continued: “Countries need predictable and reliable supply. Having to plan at short notice and ensure uptake of doses with short shelf lives exponentially magnifies the logistical burden on health systems that are already stretched.”

Accordingly, the group of experts call on “the international community, particularly donors and manufacturers” to commit to a new set of standards from the beginning of 2022. They call for a greater quantity of jabs to be delivered “in a predictable manner.”

Jabs should have a minimum shelf life of 10 weeks, and recipient countries should be notified of available doses four weeks before their arrival, according to the recommendations.

The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom, stated on Monday morning that vaccinating all nations is in “every country’s best interest.” “No country can vaccinate its way out of the pandemic,” he warned.

The warnings come just days after the Omicron variant was discovered in South Africa, and a host of other countries in Europe and Asia, reiterating calls for richer countries to assist in vaccinating the developing world.

This is due to the fact that Covid is much more likely to mutate in areas where vaccination rates are low and transmission rates are high, whereas immunization greatly reduces the likelihood of new variants emerging.

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