The halting of India’s exportation of the AstraZeneca vaccine could have catastrophic results in Africa, the continent’s disease control body has warned.
Speaking on Thursday evening, Africa CDC head, John Nkengasong, said that if India extended its halt of exporting the vaccine, it would undermine Africa’s ability to vaccinate its people.
Temporary halt of exports
India had announced that it would temporarily put on hold exporting vaccines made by its Serum Institute of India (SII). The move was to allow it to meet local demands. This follows a sudden surge of new daily cases in the country, with new infections hitting highs last seen in November 2020.
For example, on Thursday, India reported close to 80,000 new COVID-19 cases, which was the highest since November 2020.
“The hold will definitely impact our ability to vaccinate our people continuously,” John Nkengasong said in the news conference.
India’s temporary hold on major exports of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot will undermine Africa’s vaccination plans, and could have a “catastrophic” impact if extended, the head of the continent’s disease control body said on Thursday. https://t.co/ic5XHlN7yg pic.twitter.com/jeFrwLeuCp
— Reuters Africa (@ReutersAfrica) April 2, 2021
Denting vaccination plans
The Africa Union had planned to vaccinate between 30 – 35 % of its population by the end of the year, he said. But delays, such as India’s temporary halt, would lead to the continent missing that target.
Africa has been relying on donations for its vaccines, with the COVAX facility so far being the biggest in bringing the vaccine here. But COVAX can only guarantee vaccines that would help vaccinate 20 % of the continent.
Hope in Johson & Johnson
However, John Nkengasong said that the AU was shifting towards the single-dose Johnson & Johnson following AstraZeneca’s delay. The J & J company promised to help Africa get 400 million doses of the vaccine. The doses will be manufactured in South Africa.
However, it is not until June or July that the first batch of the J&J vaccine would be in supply. With infections surging across the continent, waiting on that would not be advisable. It is that gap that Nkengasong has said is causing concern.
Africa has confirmed over 4.25 million COVID cases and over 113,000 deaths. Recoveries have topped 3.7 million.