As Africa continues to lag behind in the global race to get citizens of every country vaccinated, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), stands accused of not securing adequate supplies for the continent.

A new data from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that of the 54 countries in Africa, only 14 have been able to meet the global target of vaccinating more than 10% of their population.

This translates to less than 4% of the continent’s population being vaccinated, compared to about 42% in developed countries.

GAVI, the organization meant to ensure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines, has announced an ambitious target to supply about 400 million doses of vaccine by the end of 2021 to Africa.

Through the COVAX facility intended to help poor countries acquire vaccines, about 100 million doses of vaccines have already been shipped to Africa since the beginning of the year.

GAVI, which directs the COVAX facility, is determined to quadruple supplies by the end of the year in an invigorated effort to scale up vaccination across Africa.

Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao, GAVI’s Managing Director of Resource Mobilisation, Private Sector Partnerships & Innovative Finance told Citi News that vaccine supply for Africa was severely impacted by production challenges, export controls and other regulatory challenges, however, following the prequalification of other vaccines, that challenge is being addressed.

“GAVI and COVAX are pulling together resources and have ordered more than four billion doses to be distributed across the world. Just this month, we have distributed four times more doses in Africa than before,” she said.

She admitted that the level of vaccine supply to Africa is not enough and “much more has to be done.”

By the end of the first quarter of 2022, GAVI is hoping to supply 500 million doses of vaccines to Africa by pulling together resources from its partners.

“We have quadrupled [supplies] just this month for Africa, and we expect that by the end of the year, we should be able to ship 400 million doses and close to 500 million by the end of the first quarter of 2022,” Saraka-Yao stated.

GAVI’s work, through the COVAX programme, is ensuring that vaccines for Africa are acquired at the best price and in huge quantities to complement the efforts of individual countries.

So far, vaccines being distributed through COVAX include Moderna, Pfizer, Covishield, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson.

While these different vaccines continue to be supplied across Africa, vaccine nationalism continues to threaten the continent.

Vaccine nationalism and immigration control

Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo while addressing the 76th UN General Assembly in New York last week sounded alarm on the development and appealed to wealthy countries to carry Africa along.

In addition to the call, he highlighted another concern, vaccines being used as a tool for immigration control.

Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao who associates with the call said GAVI has already recorded some success in getting the EU to accept all vaccines administered by COVAX.

“They [vaccines] are safe and secure because we do not ship vaccines that have not been prequalified. We have been working very hard with the EU so that the majority of counties of the EU accept all the vaccines administered by COVAX. There are probably a few countries where we are clarifying this, but this should be done shortly,” she said.

‘Booster shots’

GAVI wants wealthy countries to donate vaccine doses to low-income countries rather than stockpiling them and administering booster shots.

“The study so far remains weak on the need for boosters,” said Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao.

“[Let’s have] the two shots [for our populations] before we consider other possibilities, that remains a strong plea that we keep making to wealthy countries],” she added.

GAVI’s ambition, however challenging, is possible, given that COVAX is procuring vaccines from different manufacturers.