Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres said Thursday that conscious efforts have to be made to ensure that vaccines get to everyone.
Shortly after receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in New York City, Guterres said the world must come together if progress is to be made.
“I was fortunate and grateful to get the first dose of my COVID-19 vaccine today.
“We must get to work to make sure the vaccine is available to everyone, everywhere. Our world can only get ahead of this virus one way — in solidarity. None of us are safe until all of us are safe.
“Solidarity is crucial in our global fight against the pandemic.”
Guterres thanked all the essential and frontline workers who have risked their own health to protect and support their communities.
The UN Secretary-General’s statement is coming a day after WHO Africa’s immunization coordinator Richard Mihigo said the WHO-backed Covax vaccine sharing facility and the AU’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) would jointly deliver enough doses to vaccinate between 30 to 35 percent of the continent’s population this year.
There are fears that Africa might be left behind in the global vaccine scramble, as wealthier nations have been accused of bulk-buying excess doses directly from manufacturers.
It is estimated Africa will need 1.5 billion vaccine doses to immunise 60 percent of its 1.3 billion inhabitants, the threshold for herd immunity against Covid-19.
Most African countries are relying on the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Union (AU) to shoulder at least part of their inoculation campaigns — providing vaccines and helping to finance their rollout.
“Given the latest developments within the Covax facility, there is a very good prospect that the objective to supply 600 million doses by the end of 2021 will definitely be reached,” Mihigo told a virtual press briefing.
The Covax vaccines will cover at least 20 percent of the population, with the rest “complemented” by AVATT, Mihigo stated.
While the AU has so far secured 270 million doses through AVATT, Mihigo warned “some of those may not become available soon” and that the initiative could “realistically” only expect to reach between 10 and 15 percent of the continent in 2021.
The bulk of Covax and AVATT provisions will be shots of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s vaccine, followed by a few million Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.
Mihigo said the WHO was exploring “additional candidates”, with particularly high hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.
So far only a small handful of African countries have started vaccinating their populations, including Guinea, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
Morocco is expected to begin administering the shots this week, while South Africa announced on Wednesday that the first batch of 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines would arrive on February 1.
Mihigo said the first Covax doses were likely to reach the continent by mid-February, and that “by March we will definitely see most of the countries start vaccinating”.
“It is a slow start but we are expecting that in the coming months things are going to ramp up.”
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