Register now for FREE and unlimited access to reuters.com
ADDIS ABABA, April 1 (Reuters) – India’s temporary suspension on major COVID-19 vaccine exports from AstraZeneca (AZN.L) will jeopardize Africa’s vaccination plans and could have a “catastrophic impact “If it was extended,” said the mainland’s disease control body said Thursday.
India has decided to delay large exports of snapshots taken in its territory by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to ensure it can meet local demand, two sources told Reuters last week. Read more
The suspension “will certainly have an impact on our ability to continuously vaccinate people,” African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong told a press conference in Addis Ababa.
The African Union had planned to vaccinate 30 to 35% of the continent’s population by the end of the year, he said, adding that delays could miss the target.
Ghana has so far received 600,000 of the 2.4 million shots from AstraZeneca it was due to pass through COVAX by the end of May. It was said that more vaccines would not arrive until June, Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, head of vaccine deployment, told Reuters.
“Being so dependent on a single manufacturer is a major concern,” a United Nations health official involved in the Africa deployment told Reuters.
The AU’s focus relies primarily on supplies from the COVAX global vaccine sharing facility, through which 64 poorest countries, many of them in Africa, are expected to receive doses of IBS. COVAX aims to provide enough vaccines to African countries to inoculate at least 20% of their population.
“If the delay continues, I hope it is a delay and not a ban, it would be catastrophic for our adherence to our vaccination schedule,” Nkengasong said.
African countries have reported 4.25 million coronavirus infections and 112,000 related deaths, although experts have said the actual numbers may be higher.
The AU has also negotiated with manufacturers to help member states get the extra doses they will need to achieve 60% coverage.
Johnson & Johnson announced on Monday that it will provide the AU with up to 400 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. Delivery of these doses is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year and will continue until 2022.
These doses are separate from the global COVAX facility supported by GAVI / WHO.
Nkengasong said on Thursday that the AU had “pivoted” towards the J&J shot in part because of the delay in delivering the shots from AstraZeneca, and also because it was a single dose shot.
Doses of J&J will start arriving in June or July, which will alleviate any shortages caused by delayed doses of AstraZeneca, Nkengasong said. The gap until the arrival of doses of J&J is worrying, he added.
Report from the Addis Ababa Newsroom
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.