As the race to find a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine is showing increasing promise, a new World Health Organization (WHO) analysis finds that Africa is far from ready for what will be the continent’s largest ever immunisation drive.
On Thursday in a statement, WHO said all 47 countries in the WHO African region have received its Vaccine Readiness Assessment Tool which is intended to be used by ministries of health.
The vaccine provides a roadmap for countries to plan for Covid-19 vaccine introduction and covers 10 key areas including planning and coordination, resources and funding, vaccine regulations, service delivery, training and supervision, monitoring and evaluation, vaccine logistics, vaccine safety, surveillance, communications, and community engagement.
According to WHO, 40 countries have updated the tool and provided data to the organisation. An analysis finds that based on the self-reports by the countries, the African region has an average score of 33 percent readiness for a Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, which is well below the desired benchmark of 80 percent.
“The largest immunisation drive in Africa’s history is right around the corner, and African governments must urgently ramp up readiness. Planning and preparation will make or break this unprecedented endeavour, and we need active leadership and engagement from the highest levels of government with solid, comprehensive national coordination plans and systems put in place,” said the WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
According to WHO analysis of the country readiness data, only 49 percent have identified the priority populations for vaccination and have plans in place to reach them, and 44 percent have coordination structures in place.
“Only 24 percent have adequate plans for resources and funding, 17 percent have data collection and monitoring tools ready and just 12 percent have plans to communicate with communities to build trust and drive demand for immunisation.
“Developing a safe and effective vaccine is just the first step in a successful roll-out.
“If communities are not onboard and convinced that a vaccine will protect their health, we will make little headway. It’s critical that countries reach out to communities and hear their concerns and give them a voice in the process,” said Dr. Moeti
WHO estimates the cost of rolling out a Covid-19 vaccine on the African continent to priority populations will be around US$5.7 billion. This does not include an additional 15 percent to 20 percent cost for injection materials and the delivery of vaccines, which require trained health workers, supply chain and logistics, and community mobilisation.
WHO and partners recently released guidance on Covid-19 vaccination planning and deployment for national governments, aiming to help them design strategies for the deployment, implementation, and monitoring of Covid-19 vaccines and better integrate their strategies and financing to boost efficiency.