- WHO regional director says priority will be healthcare workers and other high-priority groups
- Dr Moeti says Botswana has reported new COVID-19 variant, asked to ship specimens
“The first 30 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will only be distributed in Africa in March this year,” the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for Africa, Dr Matshediso Moeti, has said.
Moeti revealed that Botswana is among countries that have reported a new variant of the deadly virus, as well as Zambia and the Gambia. “We are in contact with ministries to ship specimen to our labs to help establish whether the virus is circulating or not,” she said at a virtual press conference on Saturday. “This is further to establish the capacity of gene sequencing.”
Regarding the rollout of the vaccine, Dr Moeti said that the first batch will be part of a plan to roll out 600 million doses in a phased approach through the Covax facility and that the first 30 million doses should start arriving in some African countries by March.
“These are intended to prioritise health care workers and other high-priority groups, expanding to cover additional vulnerable groups,” she noted.
Africa has thus far recorded over 3.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 2.7 million recoveries and 81 865 deaths. Dr Moeti said Africa is only 42% ready to roll out vaccines while the benchmark is 80%. “This is an improvement on the starting point of about 33% two months ago, but we still have quite a lot of work to do to reach the desired benchmark of 80%,” she added.
She said the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) are training healthcare workers and working with ministries to ensure approval of vaccines by regulatory bodies in the region to assist with rollout capacity. Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness has revealed that they are working hand in hand with Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BoMRA) to prepare the country for partaking in the process.
The process entails creating awareness of the vaccine and debunking theories and myths which have spread across Africa.