WHO in new strategy to ramp up global vaccination

Saturday October 09 2021
A Ugandan Prisons officer

A Ugandan Prisons officer receives a jab of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine at Mulago Referral Hospital in Kampala, on the first day of a vaccination campaign on March 10, 2021. PHOTO | AFP

By Elizabeth Merab

The World Health Organisation on Thursday announced an initiative to vaccinate 40 percent of the population of every country against Covid-19 by the end of 2021, and 70 per cent by mid-2022 . This will be done by prioritising vaccine delivery to low-income countries.

Meanwhile, Kenya was discussing the possibility of introducing a third shot for the fully vaccinated in order to address waning immunity.

However the Ministry of Health said it will not introduce any additional dose until the percentage of Kenyans fully vaccinated or those who have received the first dose significantly improves.

Willis Akhwale, chair of the National Covid-19 Vaccines Taskforce said: “We do not have adequate doses to think of boosters, and doing so will create inequity where few people with access will get the booster shot therefore denying those who are yet to get even a first dose.”

Although still in its early stages of consideration, the decision to introduce the third dose will be informed by a scheduled in-country study on how immunity among vaccinated people declines, said Dr Akhwale.

He said the study is being done by the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative institute of clinical research, the Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis at the University of Nairobi, and CDC-Kenya.


High targets

Addressing the world on WHO’s vaccination strategy at a virtual conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said; "Today, WHO is launching the strategy to achieve global Covid-19 vaccination by mid-2022."

He said achieving the targets of 40 per cent and 70 per cent will require at least 11 billion vaccine doses, which is an allocation problem and not a supply problem.

"With global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is enough supply to achieve our targets, provided they are distributed equitably," he said. According to WHO's records, more than 6.4 billion vaccine doses have already been administered globally, and almost one-third of the world's population is fully vaccinated.

However, low-income countries have received less than half of one per cent of the world's vaccines. In Africa, less than five per cent of people are fully vaccinated. Earlier this year, WHO set a target for all countries to vaccinate 10 per cent of their populations by the end of September, but 56 countries didn't make it. The failure prompted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to join the WHO chief to launch the latest strategy.

"Vaccine inequality is the best ally of the Covid-19 pandemic," said Mr Guterres. "Through dose sharing, swaps, technology transfers and other priority actions, it is possible to reduce deaths and minimise suffering."

On Friday, Tanzania received its second batch of Sinopharm vaccines from China through the Covax facility. Receiving the 1,065,600 doses at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said now people could choose the vaccine they want.

“The response is overwhelming and the first phase of the vaccination drive is expected to be completed by the end of next week,’’ she said.