With COVID-19 vaccines expected in Africa in January 2021, some African nations have indicated interest in acquiring doses for their citizens.
Through the COVAX intervention of the WHO, in partnership with GAVI, most middle and low income countries will get vaccines for their citizens from next year till 2022.
Economic giants – Nigeria and South Africa have indicated interest in the vaccine, with the Southern African nation already paying R330m for the product. The vaccines are expected to be available for 1.8 million of the country’s nearly 60 million population.
The Nigerian government has also said the sum of N400bn will be needed for the procurement of vaccines that will be available for 70% of the population.
While nations are scrambling and waiting on the vaccine, Dr. Peter Imoesi, a Nigerian Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland points out that the vaccine has its pros and cons.
Dr. Imoesi said initial observations in the first vaccinations showed some health workers showing allergic reactions to the vaccine. He also said a research literature from Pfizer has advised that people with immune reactions should not be given the vaccine.
He said the age range expected to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine are those from 18 and above, while for Moderna it’s 16 and above. Africa has a median age range of 18.1 and is the continent with the youngest population in the world.
Further advising what African governments need to do, he said the content of the vaccines must be studied, to understand what has been used to develop them. He also advised African countries to conduct their own study on the vaccines and be less dependent on what is coming from Europe and America.
Africa Needs More Research
Dr. Moses Masika, a Kenyan Virologist from the University of Nairobi believes there is the need for more research in Africa, but the possibility that the continent is dealing with a totally different strain, is low.
He said this is because there are diverse strains found causing COVID-19 in the continent.
“Those questions have been raised and we may not have definitive answers until we analyse as many sequences as we need to but even in the face of the new B.1.1.7 strain, there’s a notorious mutation identified in that strain and other strains, in South Africa.
“I wouldn’t think we have weaker strains as such. What I think we had was an initial slow rise as a result of few travelling activities from and to Africa. People also had fears and took measures which have been very easy and not resource-intensive.”
He further highlighted the importance of leadership in the fight against the pandemic and said leaders’ reaction will go a long way in boosting the morale of the citizens.
Africa May Not Be Facing The Second Wave Yet
Dr. Imoesi said African countries may not be in the second wave of the disease yet as inadequate testing has shown. He said a country that hasn’t tested enough people may not know the true impact of the disease.
He further highlighted Nigeria’s case as an example of where false-negative results may have shown a false impression of the actual situation.
He said the viability of a sample for COVID-19 lasts hours but Nigeria keeps samples for 48 hours at times and that affects the quality of the sample. The researcher said this may be one of the reasons most test results have returned negative.
He further added that the youthful African population is one of the reasons COVID-19 has not been devastating in Africa.