Priority for the Covid-19 vaccine must be given to vulnerable groups such as people with co-morbidities, frontline workers, and not politicians, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.
As the continent awaits the delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine to member states, some have expressed fears that ‘crafty’ politicians would elbow their way to the front of the queue, which often happens when it comes to accessing resources.
However, Africa CDC is emphatic that priority for the Covid-19 vaccine are groups that are most at risk and frontline workers who take care of the vulnerable.
“As to which group must be vaccinated first, as Africa CDC we are very clear that each country must develop their priority list, which is part of the vaccination plan. For us it is very clear that our frontline workers should always be number one because they are ones taking care of the most vulnerable,” said Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Deputy Director of Africa CDC.
Dr Ogwell advised countries to take note of this priority as they developed their vaccination plans.
He noted that Africa CDC in its guide to the continent had no priority group listed as politicians.
“There is no group called politicians but groups that are well defined according to their level of risk and according to levels of benefit to the community as a whole. This is what guide has been provided to each country as they develop their own vaccination plans for their people.”
Meanwhile, Dr Ogwell confirmed vaccine research in Africa was taking place and ‘actually continuing.’
“We have very fine scientists in Africa, some of the first three vaccines globally have had key input from African researchers based in those particular countries. Back here in Africa we also have very good scientists,” he said.
The health expert revealed that there were six different African institutions currently working on vaccines research.
“They are doing the research as we speak and Africa CDC is supporting all of them to be able to go through the process of developing vaccine candidates as we talk about the 800 million that need to be vaccinated. If we have home grown vaccines that can be cheaper for us and really much better for Africa in terms of capacity building and boosting our confidence. Our researchers are very much on the ball to do this work,” Dr Ogwell said.
However, he was reluctant to name these six African institutions, saying their main focus now was research not being in the spotlight.
“We don’t want them to be flooded with questions when they are busy trying to deliver but at an appropriate time, the names of those institutions would be shared,” said the Africa CDC Deputy Director.
Dr Ogwell noted that apart from vaccines, the African continent could produce therapies for different types of illnesses including Covid-19.
“We are encouraging our homegrown researchers who are using materials, plants and whatever is available here in the continent that they need to do it scientifically. We are supporting quite a number right now – to go through some products that they have and we see how safe and efficacious they can be for handling cases of Covid-19 and indeed other diseases as well,” he said.
“If you can recall that in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Professor (Jean-Jacques) Muyembe, (Director General of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in DRC) and team members team came up with an Ebola vaccine which has been hailed as one of the tools that have brought Ebola to its knees in that part of the world.”