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COVID-19: Africa secures 300m vaccines as Nigeria records 1270 cases

 

Adeze Ojukwu with AP reports

Nigeria recorded 1270 new coronavirus cases and 12 deaths, Tuesday, amidst fears of more spikes, if schools re-open next week.

Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said ‘till date, 102,601 cases have been confirmed, 81574 cases have been discharged and 1373 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.’

Meanwhile, African Union(AU) has secured close to 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the largest such agreement yet for Africa, a continental official said Tuesday.

Nicaise Ndembi, senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press in an interview that the current AU chair, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, was expected to announce the news on Wednesday.

The 300 million doses are being secured independently of the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, Ndembi said.

‘We have reached the final stage of our deals,’ he said, referring questions about who will be providing the vaccines and at what cost to the upcoming announcement.

The news comes as coronavirus infections spike again in parts of Africa, especially South Africa, where a rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus now makes up most of the new cases.

The continent over the weekend surpassed three million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than 1.2 million in South Africa.

NCDC in its official tweeter account said, ‘everyone needs to maintain a higher index of suspicion for #COVID19 and adhere to all preventive measures.
The 1270 new cases were reported from 22 states – Lagos (435), FCT (234), Oyo (103), Plateau (86), Rivers (71), Enugu (51), Nasarawa (41), Delta (39), Edo (39), Osun (33), Niger (31), Sokoto (23), Ondo (16), Taraba (13), Ebonyi (12), Kano (10), Abia (9), Bayelsa (8), Bauchi (7), Imo (5), Katsina (3) and Gombe (1)

‘The #COVID19 pandemic is not over, but the availability of vaccines will bring us closer to controlling the acute phase of this pandemic.’

As the country awaits the arrival of the vaccines, the agency urged the public to continue to adhere to health guidelines.

‘The #COVID19 virus can live on surfaces for several hours. #TakeResponsibility to limit or avoid sharing the use of personal items and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Wear a face mask. Observe physical distance. Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water. Cough or sneeze into your elbow.

‘Our discharges today includes 144 community recoveries in Lagos State managed in line with guidelines.’

Ndembi said, ‘we plan to have these by the end of the first quarter of 2021, out of the nearly 300 million doses, will be allocated on the continental platform the AU set up last year to make it easier for Africa’s 54 countries to pool their purchasing power and buy pandemic supplies in bulk.’

‘We’re expecting 600 million doses from the COVAX facility,’ he said, but African officials are still waiting for the details, so ‘we’re happy we have alternative solutions.’

Ndembi said African officials have approached at least 10 vaccine manufacturers and developers as the continent seeks to vaccinate 60% of its population of 1.3 billion people, or about 780 million people. The Africa CDC has said some 1.5 billion doses are needed for that, assuming two doses per person. It estimates the effort will cost some $10 billion.

Ndembi has said he’s very optimistic that can be achieved within two years. The Africa CDC has warned that taking much longer than that risks having the virus become endemic in parts of the African continent.

In an address to South Africans on Monday night, Ramaphosa announced the country had secured 20 million vaccine doses “to be delivered mainly in the first half of the year.” He gave no further details but said ‘we will make further announcements as we conclude our negotiations with vaccine manufacturers.’

Africa has scrambled on multiple fronts to obtain vaccine supplies. Ramaphosa said the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team recently created under the AU “has done tremendous work to secure vaccine doses’ through what he called intensive engagement with manufacturers.

‘The South African government has also been engaging directly with several vaccine manufacturers for over six months,’ he said.

‘Given the massive global demand for vaccines and the vastly greater purchasing power of wealthier countries, we are exploring all avenues to get as many vaccine doses as soon as possible,’ Ramaphosa said.

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