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COMESA CALLS FOR INCREASED VACCINE UPTAKE

By BUUMBA CHIMBULU

POTENTIAL for more severe Covid-19 waves in Africa is high due to variants and low adherence to Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM).

Administering and uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines therefore remains critical for countries to survive the surging waves which are more severe.

This came to light yesterday at an ongoing meeting meant to improve uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines by some members States in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

The two-day virtual meeting has been driven by the need to address the slow uptake of the vaccines by some members States in the region thus necessitating intervention from the regional bodies.

So far, only less than three percent of the eligible population in Africa has been fully vaccinated, well below the 60 percent target set by Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) that is by June, 2022.

At the meeting, Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Deputy Director, Ahmed Ouma, warned that potential for more waves and subsequently more severe was high in Africa.

Dr Ouma attributed this to Covid-19 variants and low adherence PHSM.

He however advised that the need to increase uptake of the vaccines in the region.

“Vaccines have been shown to reduce severity of disease outcomes more efforts needed to address hesitancy and availability. Expanding African manufacturing will also have a significant public health impact and economies benefits.

“Two countries, Kenya and Tunisia are already experiencing the fourth wave. This is why all tools at disposal should be used including the vaccines The variants are here in the region and we need to double efforts to bring in under control before many more variants appear,” he said.

COMESA Secretary General, Chileshe Kapwepwe, said the organisation was focused on the formation of a large economic and trading bloc that was capable of overcoming some of the challenges in individual states.

Ms Kapwepwe acknowledged that without a healthy population, economic transformation and sustainable growth would be hindered and heavily compromised.

“Over the past year, we have put in all effort to continue to support cross border trade and implementing infrastructure projects with the engagement of relevant stakeholders while ensuring that our programmes and activities continue to run as efficiently as possible, despite the challenges occasioned by the pandemic,” she said.

Rwanda Health Minister, Daniel Ngamije, said it was unfortunate that some of the determinants of low access to vaccines in Africa was driven by social, political, and economic factors that required a multisectoral and multidisciplinary approach.

Dr Ngamiji acknowledged that Africa was currently witnessing Covid-19 hesitancy across the region.

“Vaccine’s hesitancy is real and can cause unnecessary death. We have seen it, unfortunately, in many western countries where some people have refused to be vaccinated and have ended up in hospitals. There are also many deaths from new Covid-19 variants, which are more transmissible,” he said.

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