“We cannot predict when the second doses will come and that is not good for our vaccination programme,” John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told reporters on Thursday.
Africa lags behind most other regions in COVID-19 vaccinations, with just less than 14 million doses having been administered on the continent of 1.3 billion, according to the Africa CDC.
Ghana, for example, has administered around 742,000 doses of the 815,000 shots it has so far received and will run out by the end of next week.
“Even if Ghana had the money, they will not know where to go get the vaccine, that’s the challenge,” said Nkengasong.
So far, the majority of the vaccines available in African countries have been delivered via the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility. COVAX aims to deliver 600 million shots to some 40 African countries this year, enough to vaccinate 20% of their populations.
The majority of those doses are AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Insitute of India. But last month, India suspended its exports to meet rising domestic demand amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
That has caused great uncertainty for Africa’s vaccination rollout.
“We are in a bind as a continent,” he added. “Access to vaccines has been limited for us.”
He said he hopes India, where new infections have topped 200,000 a day, will lift its restriction as soon as possible.
People who have received their first jab are already benefiting from some protection from the virus, he said, and he urged nations to use their doses before they expire. (Reporting by Maggie Fick Additional reporting by Bate Felix in Dakar; Editing by Alison Williams)
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