While the race to find safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines continues, African countries are signing up to a ground-breaking initiative, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
The global health body, in a statement, said that the initiative aims to secure at least 220 million doses of the vaccine for the continent, once licensed and approved.
According to the statement, “All 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest in COVAX, a global initiative which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO).”
“COVAX is a ground-breaking global initiative which will include African countries and ensure they are not left at the back of the queue for COVID-19 vaccines. By reaching beyond the continent to work together with other governments and manufacturers on a global scale and pooling buying power, countries can protect the people most vulnerable to the disease in Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Dr Richard Mihigo, Programme Area Manager, Immunization and Vaccine Development Programme, WHO Regional Office for Africa, said “It’s critical that countries in Africa participate in vaccine trials, in addition to the clinical trials taking place in other regions of the world.
“Testing vaccines on the continent ensures that sufficient data is generated on the safety and efficacy of the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population so they can be confidently rolled out in Africa once vaccines are approved.
“CEPI is investing in the research and development of a diverse range of vaccine candidates, with the aim of delivering safe and effective vaccines to those who need them most through COVAX,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer, CEPI.
The statement further stated that through COVAX, vaccines that have passed regulatory approval or WHO prequalification will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations. Health workers and other vulnerable populations will be prioritized and then vaccine availability will expand to cover additional priority populations in participating countries.
It noted that African countries will need to have in place the right systems and infrastructure to define the regulatory and ethical pathways for a quick approval of a candidate vaccine.