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Africa wants at the very least 20 million doses over the following six weeks, says the WHO

A medical worker injects a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine into a man at a hospital in Accra, capital of Ghana on May 19, 2021.

Seth | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Africa needs at least 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine within the next six weeks to receive the second round of vaccinations to people who have already received the first vaccination, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The data shows that one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is 70% effective for at least 12 weeks, but the second dose offers 81% protection against Covid over a longer period of time, according to the WHO. Antibodies have been seen in the body for up to six months after a dose.

In order for the continent to be able to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by September, another 200 million doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine are urgently needed, the WHO said.

As of Thursday, Africa, home to nearly 1.4 billion people, had given 28 million doses of Covid-19 from various drug manufacturers, which is less than two doses per 100 people on the continent. By comparison, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 165 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of vaccine, which is nearly half the country’s population.

“Africa needs vaccines now. Any interruption to our vaccination campaigns will result in loss of life and hope,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We urge countries that have vaccinated their high-risk groups to speed up dose distribution to fully protect the most vulnerable.”

France has pledged to share half a million cans with six African countries over the next few weeks and has already sent 31,000 cans to Mauritania. Another 74,400 doses are to be shipped shortly, the WHO announced.

The European Union has announced that it will send 100 million doses to low-income countries by the end of 2021, and the United States has pledged 80 million doses. Other countries around the world have also expressed an interest in sharing cans. Countries in Africa that don’t use all of their doses are also sharing them with other countries on the continent, according to the WHO.

Redistributing vaccine doses, while helpful, is expensive. WHO says Africa needs to increase its vaccine manufacturing capacity.

“The IP waiver is a critical first step, but it needs to go hand in hand with the sharing of expertise and critical technologies,” the WHO wrote in a press release.

In Africa, 54 countries are involved in WHO efforts with more than 100 countries to submit a draft resolution to the World Health Assembly. The resolution aims to “strengthen local production, promote technology transfer and innovation and examine the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and intellectual property rights with a view to promoting local production,” according to the WHO.

About 40 African countries have also attended WHO manufacturing capacity building training, and WHO says it is also working with the African Union on a plan to support feasibility studies and technology transfers upon request.

“It is too early to say if Africa is on the cusp of a third wave. We do know, however, that cases are increasing and the clock is ticking,” said Moeti.

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