East Africa will receive close to 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax Facility, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to the highly sought after vaccines.
In an indicative vaccine allocation plan released last week, the Gavi-run facility announced the exact doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccines that countries signed up to that they should expect to receive in the coming months, starting now.
According to the interim distribution plan, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda are the only countries that will receive 9,690,960 doses, in proportion to their population size.
"The first indicative distribution covers 240 million doses of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine licence to the Serum Institute of India," said Seth Berkley, the chief executive officer of Gavi, the vaccine alliance.
"It also covers 96 million doses of the same vaccine secured under an advanced purchase agreement signed directly between Gavi and AstraZeneca in December," he added.
However, the doses were only allocated to countries that signed up to be part of the Covax facility. For example, Kenya will receive 4.2 million, Rwanda 1.1 million, Uganda 3.6 million and South Sudan 864,000. The doses are expected to go to the most vulnerable populations, including health care workers.
Delivery of these vaccines is expected to start in late February.
The country-by-country forecast which excluded Tanzania and Burundi, was released by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), Gavi, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Unicef. These doses are expected to reach about 3.3 per cent of the total population of the 145 facility participants during this time frame.
“This is really key for all countries to be able to prepare and plan for the rollout and effective introduction of this vaccine,” said Ann Lindstrand, Expanded Programme on Immunisation co-ordinator at WHO, at a press conference.
While the Covax Facility aims to provide access to almost 2.3 billion doses this year, there are concerns that this target will not be met due to challenges around funding, supply volumes, regulatory approval, and country readiness to roll out vaccines. Because of this, Ms Lindstrand warned that the figures provided to countries are subject to change and reflect estimated vaccine availability from manufacturers.
Besides the Covax vaccines, Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) said 16 countries have expressed interest in purchasing some of the 270 million doses secured through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC however did not give the country breakdown but said that the countries have applied for 114 million doses.
There is evidence that the death rate for Covid-19 in Africa is on the increase.