By Kamil Ebo and Omar Mohammed
ABUJA / NAIROBI (Reuters) – Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda began inoculating frontline health workers and vulnerable citizens against COVID-19 on Friday as Africa, the world’s poorest continent and home to 1.3 billion people, stepped up its vaccination campaigns. .
While some wealthy Western countries have already inoculated millions of people, many African countries are struggling to provide doses and have not yet fired a single shot.
But the global vaccine sharing facility COVAX, jointly led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the GAVI vaccine alliance and others, has begun to bear fruit in countries from Ghana to Rwanda.
“That means I̵
Rwanda is the first country in Africa to use doses from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer that require ultra-cold storage.
The government of President Paul Kagame, which prides itself on technological excellence but is often criticized as authoritarian, has installed special infrastructure to keep the Pfizer vaccine at the required -70C.
The Kagame government, which received photos of Pfizer and AstraZeneca through the COVAX facility, plans to vaccinate up to 30 percent of Rwanda’s 12 million people by the end of the year.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, transplanted health workers with shots from AstraZeneca on Friday, launching a campaign aimed at vaccinating 80 million of its 200 million people this year.
“I want everyone vaccinated,” Ngong Kyprian, a 42-year-old doctor, told Reuters in the capital, Abuja, when he became the first in Nigeria to receive his shot while officials applauded and rejoiced.
President Muhammadu Bukhari will be vaccinated on Saturday in a bid to boost public confidence in the shootings.
Nigeria delivered 3.92 million doses of AstraZeneca on Tuesday on COVAX, but the facility only aims to cover 20% of the population in the countries it helps. Nigeria also expects at least 40 million doses from the African Union, as well as 100,000 doses donated from the Indian vaccine Covishield.
THE VACCINE IS SAFE
Applause greeted the first vaccinations in Kenya on Friday, after receiving the first million doses this week through COVAX.
“I feel great,” said Patrick Amot, director general at the health ministry, after receiving his shot. “The vaccine is safe.”
Kenya, which wants to revive its tourism-dependent economy, the largest in East Africa, plans to vaccinate 1.25 million people by June and another 9.6 million in the next phase, with more vaccines expected in weeks.
“This could mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” said Susan Mokache, a senior health ministry official.
Neighboring Uganda delivered its first batch of 864,000 doses of AstraZeneca via COVAX on Friday and aims to start inoculations on March 10th.
As of Thursday, Africa reported nearly 4 million infections and 104,000 deaths in total, still a relatively small result compared to other continents, with higher deaths in the United States, the United States, Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom.
South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths on the African continent, with 1.5 million cases and more than 50,000 deaths to date.
On Friday, a senior health official said South Africa was negotiating with the African Union (AU) platform to buy vaccines for at least 10 million of its people.
The country has temporarily allocated 12 million doses developed by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson to an AC vaccine plan, but it was unclear how many vaccines it would seek to buy after it stopped plans to use the AstraZeneca shot. ($ 1 = 109.5500 Kenyan Shillings)
(Additional reports by Clement Uwiringiyimana in Kigali, Elias Biryabirema in Kampala and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; Written by Gareth Jones; Edited by Alex Richardson)