Countries across Africa are hunting for deals to obtain COVID-19 vaccines at affordable prices but their limited funds will cover less than half of their citizens. One estimate places access to a vaccine at one person out of 10.
According to a report in The Hill, a U.S. news website, 9 out of 10 people in nearly 70 poor countries will not get a COVID-19 vaccine this year due to government funding shortfalls.
In Uganda, 9 million doses of the life-saving vaccine have been ordered through GAVI (Global Alliances for Vaccines and Immunization) amid surging new infections in the country. The vaccines will cover only 20% of the country’s population.
In Kenya, the country is seeking 24 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from COVAX, a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID vaccines with 1.2 billion doses of safe and effective vaccines to be shared among 92 lower-income countries this year.
With an additional $92 million, Kenya can buy more doses, enough to vaccinate 30% of its citizens.
AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company and part of COVAX, said it will provide vaccines at cost “in perpetuity” to countries in the developing world at a cost of no more than $3 a dose.
Pfizer, a for-profit operation, has not joined the initiative. The wholesale price for their drug is $20 a dose––out of reach for most of Africa.
Morocco and Egypt are buying vaccines from the China-based Sinopharm. Last week, Egypt received the second batch of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the country’s inventory to 100,000––enough for 50,000 people, a small fraction of a total 98 million population.
Morocco says it will vaccinate 80% of adults with Sinopharm starting this month after King Mohammed VI instructed the government to make the vaccine free, according to a Royal Palace statement.
In the East African region, Rwanda and Kenya say they’ve applied for the AstraZeneca/Oxford product.
Rwanda is set to acquire the vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 and distribute it to 20% of the population.
“Rich countries have enough doses to vaccinate everyone nearly three times over, whilst poor countries don’t even have enough to even reach health workers and people at risk,” said Mohga Kamal Yanni, from the People’s Vaccine Alliance. “The current system, where pharmaceutical corporations use government funding for research, retain exclusive rights and keep their technology secret to boost profits, could cost many lives.”