August 2, 2021

from South Africa to Uganda, an unprecedented influx of patients

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The third wave cracks health systems

In Uganda, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), alerts are increasing on the saturation of hospitals while the third wave of the epidemic which affects twenty countries of the continent is proving stronger than the previous ones. In these three countries, where the Delta variant which appeared in India was detected, the health situation suddenly deteriorated in a few weeks. In the DRC, 77% of new cases diagnosed are linked to the Delta variant and 97% in Uganda, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This variant is present in thirteen countries.

Read also Africa facing Covid-19: the continent worries about a third wave

A total of 160,000 new cases have been reported on the continent over the past week, an increase of 30%. South Africa, where the resurgence of the epidemic coincides with the onset of the southern winter, recorded nearly half of it.

In the still glaring lack of vaccines, regional health authorities are urging governments to ban gatherings of any kind in order to curb the spread of the virus.

This very precise figure, communicated Thursday, June 24 by the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) corresponds to the proportion of vaccines administered in Africa out of the 61.4 million doses. It allows, according to the director of the institution, John Nkengasong, to relativize the discourse on the reluctance of populations to vaccination against the coronavirus. “When vaccines are available, we use them”, he stressed, deploring that only 1.1% of the African population is so far immune.

Among the 54 countries of the continent, only Burundi, Tanzania, Eritrea and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (recognized by the African Union) have not yet started a vaccination campaign.

L’AstraZeneca ” in the event that ” distributed in Africa is not approved by Europeans

The Malagasy were among the first to discover that the Covishield vaccine, the version of AstraZeneca manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, is not approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, this vaccine, distributed through the international Covax initiative, is the most widespread in Africa. This situation introduces discrimination on entry to European soil for African travelers.

In Antananarivo, the European representative was arrested, but misunderstanding quickly spread to other countries. The European Union justified itself by explaining that the agency had only approved the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in the United Kingdom or other countries in Europe under the name Vaxzevria. It is one of the four vaccines validated by the regulatory authority allowing unrestricted access to European territory.

Read also In Kédougou, in south-eastern Senegal, the challenge of access to health for all

The EU also recalled that this decision did not call into question the reliability of Covishield, which has been validated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Be that as it may, the imbroglio can only reinforce the mistrust of the populations towards AstraZeneca. WHO African office director Matshidiso Moeti on Thursday called on national and regional regulatory bodies to recognize all vaccines evaluated and approved for emergency use by WHO: “African populations should not be further restricted because they are unable to access vaccines that are only available elsewhere”.

Seychelles investigation into the epidemic resurgence

The Africa CDC dispatched a team of experts to Seychelles to investigate the reasons for the resurgence of the epidemic. The archipelago was the first country on the continent to launch its vaccination campaign in early January with the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. He also received doses of AstraZeneca. Nearly 70% of its population has been fully vaccinated, which made it possible to reopen the borders at the end of March in order to revive the tourist activity on which the country is very dependent.

The resumption of the epidemic forced a reversal. According to information provided by the Ministry of Health, Thursday, June 24, tests show the predominance of the Beta variant (South African) in new cases of contamination. The Alpha (English) and Delta (Indian) variants are also present on the island. Authorities also said two people who had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca died.

Help from the World Bank for the purchase of vaccines

The World Bank has announced its intention to provide financial assistance to countries in need to purchase vaccines through the platform set up by the African Union, Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT). This platform was successful in securing the delivery of 220 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine with an option for 180 million additional doses. The first batches are expected from August.

Read also Covid-19 in the world: major setback for the vaccine of the German CureVac, the epidemic is accelerating in Africa

But, unlike the Covax international solidarity initiative, the vaccines provided by AVATT are not free and the African Union faces a lack of demand from governments to sell its order.

World Bank assistance should therefore help remedy this situation. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one injection. The 400 million doses promise to be able to immunize a third of the continent while Covax is at a standstill due to the Indian decision to suspend exports of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

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