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WHO says Africa to see doses of 1 vaccine from COVAX in March

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About 600 million doses are expected to come from COVAX. Doses expected to be distributed in countries based on population size and severity of outbreak, with health workers being considered the highest priority after thousands are infected. The African continent is now recording about 30,000 new cases of viruses per day overall compared to 18,000 during the first months of growth.

“Unfortunately, our deaths are rising very fast,” John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a special conference.

He said confirmed deaths from COVID-19 have risen 21% over the past week in Africa, with more than 5,400 reported. The continent has more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of the virus, including more than 75,000 deaths, as a second wave of infections is hitting very, very hard.

The fatality rate in Africa is now 2.4%, above the global level of 2.2%. About 20 African countries have fatality rates above the global average, including Sudan at 6%, Egypt at 5.5%, Mali at 3.9%, Congo at 3.1% and South Africa at 2.8%.

South Africa is one of the hardest hit countries in the world as a highly infectious variant of the virus now dominates the number of new cases and hospitals are struggling. The country has more than 1.2 million cases, including 35,000 deaths.

Genomic ranking has now found that new variant in three other countries: Botswana, Gambia and Zambia, the WHO chief for Africa said.

The importance of a robust genomics surveillance system cannot be overemphasized, she added.

The CDC director of Africa said the huge increase in the number of cases means we have short oxygen supplies and he is meeting with the World Health Organization and other partners on Friday on how to increase supply in Africa, where medical oxygen is not widely available.

Nkengasong stressed the importance of getting COVID-19 vaccines in Africa: We need to do it quickly. Economies are in decline. People are dying.

Since vaccine doses from the COVAX effort are expected to cover only 20% of the population in Africa, officials have pushed across multiple fronts to provide many more doses to meet the 60% vaccination goal needed to achieve herd immunity against the virus.

The vaccinations will require a very massive historic campaign of a kind the continent has never seen, Nkengasong said.

There are already concerns about how African countries may dump vaccines that require super cold storage given the continent has some of the worst infrastructure in the world.

Nkengasong said African governments are being advised to take deep freezes to start vaccinations in hospitals in their major cities, then to engage the community, to push them, to pull them to where the vaccination points are.

Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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