The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, has warned that India’s temporary hold on major exports of AstraZeneca’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine will undermine the continent’s inoculation plans and could have a “catastrophic” impact if extended.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) recently announced that as many as 90 million doses of the shot destined for the COVAX initiative worldwide will be delayed through the end of April as India’s government grapples with a spike in infections among the country’s 1.4 billion people. India’s move is aimed at making sure it could meet local demand.
“If the delay continues, I hope it’s a delay and not a ban, that would be catastrophic for meeting our vaccinations schedule,” Nkengasong said at a news conference in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
The African Union had planned to vaccinate 30-35 percent of the continent’s population by the end of the year, Nkengasong said. The AU’s target primarily relies on supplies from COVAX, through which 64 countries including many in Africa are supposed to get doses from the SII.
“To be so reliant on one manufacturer is a massive concern,” a United Nations health official involved in the rollout in Africa explained.
Ghana has so far received 600,000 of the 2.4 million AstraZeneca shots it was due to get through COVAX by the end of May. It has been told that more shots will only arrive in June, Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, head of the vaccine rollout, told Reuters.