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Africa short 140 million vaccines from India

27 May 2021 - 14:32 By claire keeton
India's Covid-19 crisis has affected its production and delivery of vaccines, hitting Africa hard.
India's Covid-19 crisis has affected its production and delivery of vaccines, hitting Africa hard.
Image: REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

The Covid-19 crisis in India has delayed the delivery of 140 million doses of the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine, labelled as CoviShield, to Africa since March, said Dr Thabani Maphosa, from the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, on Thursday.

Forty million doses were not delivered in March, 50 million in April and 50 million in May, after the decision by India to hold on to its production of CoviShield, made by the Serum Institute of India, after a catastrophic surge of coronavirus infections in India.

The Covax global vaccine equity programme was relying on the institute to supply it with vaccines for distribution to low and middle income developing countries.

Maphosa, Gavi country programmes MD, said 18 million doses had been delivered to 41 countries on the continent so far.

Vaccines would be delivered as soon as possible to countries needing second doses for partly-inoculated citizens, and next in line would be the countries who were ready to give people their shots but had not received any doses yet, he said.

Covax would soon be announcing an expansion of its vaccine portfolio, which was broadened early May when it secured 500 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, expected to be available in October.

Talks with Johnson & Johnson were “progressing very well” and Gavi was also engaged with China and Russia about their vaccines, he said.

“Any vaccine that has been pre-qualified by WHO and evidence presented to WHO, will be considered by Covax.”

WHO Africa director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said the situation in India had shown the urgent need for Africa to expand its production of vaccines.

“We have seen where African countries are now, partly due to the situation in India. You have to appreciate that another developing country, being the world’s factory for these vaccines, particularly for poor countries, is facing a very difficult situation,” she said at the same briefing on Thursday.

The B.1.671 variant, identified in India and driving new infections there, has been detected in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.