Waste Not, Want Not: Africa CDC to Request Pause in COVID-19 Vaccine Donations

In this Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 file photo, a member of the Army Forces receives the China’s Sinopharm vaccine during the start of the vaccination campaign against the COVID-19 at the Health Ministry in Dakar, Senegal. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as Africa strives to vaccinate 60% of its 1.3 billion people as quickly as possible, the continent must develop its capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccinesAccording to officials, logistical concerns, as well as COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and reluctance, all factor into the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to request a delay in shipments. The move comes after Africa launched a campaign to encourage young people to get vaccinated against the contagious disease. Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong, is set to request that COVID-19 vaccine donations be suspended until the second half of the year, according to recent comments the continent’s top health official. “It makes sense to say, ‘Look, let’s pause and avoid the risk of sending so much that it gets expired, and then clear this and put our efforts in taking these ones up so we can now see how many people have actually been immunized — and then maybe now you can look at the next wave of donations,” he told Politico. As of this article’s publication, more than 11.3 million COVID-19 infections have been reported in Africa since the pandemic began, along with at least 247,000 associated deaths, per Reuters. Countries reporting the most new daily infections, based on a seven-day average, include Tunisia (3,494 daily infections), Réunion (3,101 daily infections), South Africa (2,399), Egypt (2,054), and Libya (1,948). With the exception of Réunion, all of the aforementioned countries are observing a decrease in their seven-day averages. Nkengasong emphasized that the decision to request a delay in vaccine shipments is not to say that the donations are not important or needed.

"It’s like buying a whole basket of foods and just to put it on your kitchen counter,” Africa's top health official said. “If you cannot use any, it will rot. But if you do that in smaller pieces, then you still get to the end goal with the same amount of food on your kitchen table — but at least you don’t have any waste."

The possible emergence of new COVID-19 variants, and other factors, were taken into account before arriving at the decision, Nkengasong said. Omicron COVID StrainSome Countries In Africa Reach Possible Endemic Stage, Study Shows28 January, 21:30 GMT’Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance,’ an organization co-leading COVAX, told the outlet that vaccine distribution is moving at a “sophisticated” pace amid a shift in supply and demand. “Dose-sharing will remain an important aspect of the global vaccination effort as we strive to close the vaccine equity gap,” a Gavi spokesperson told the outlet, noting that “not a single dose has been shipped without first being accepted by the recipient country.” The decision comes weeks after the Africa CDC director launched a campaign to enlist youth to be vaccinated. The campaign, dubbed ‘African Youths for COVID-19 vaccination: Initiative for Saving Lives, Saving Livelihoods,’ encourages younger Africans “to play an active role” in increasing inoculations, as the median age of the continent’s population is 19.5. At the time, 64% of the 597 million COVID-19 vaccine doses provided to Africa have been administered.

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