Medical personnel at the Nairobi National Vaccine Depot where the country's first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are preserved in cold storage, checks on vaccines in a cold-room in Nairobi. (Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP)
The delivery of 65 ultra-cold freezers will contribute towards efforts to boost Covid-19 vaccine equity for African nations.
The delivery came about through a multilateral agreement between Abu Dhabi-based public-private partnership Hope Consortium and the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) to support the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) initiative in its efforts towards equitable global vaccine distribution.
Some Covid-19 vaccines must be stored at temperatures as low as -80°C and the donated freezers will enable African nations to efficiently store incoming donated vaccines. This will also propel Africa towards its goal to have up to 70% vaccine coverage by mid-2022.
The shipment is expected to reach 21 nations on the continent including Benin, Cameroon and Lesotho.
In a statement, Sultan Mohammed Al Shamsi, the assistant minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said that the country was committed to supporting countries faced with logistical and technical challenges associated with the large-scale delivery of vaccination programmes.
“Our partnership with Unicef plays a vital role in helping implement an effective global response to Covid-19, particularly within Africa. We are proud to support international efforts such as Covax by dedicating the unique services of the Hope Consortium,” Al Shamsi said.
The director of Unicef’s supply division, Etleva Kadilli, said the critical infrastructure would boost the capacity of African countries to increase their Covid-19 vaccine rollouts and also support the management of other vaccines that may require ultra-cold storage temperatures.
“These deliveries of ultra-cold freezers mark an important step towards equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines,” Kadilli said.
“Unicef is pleased to work with partners like the Hope Consortium to support governments to strengthen health systems for the Covid-19 response and beyond – making them resilient for the future.”
Along with its partners, the consortium has developed vaccine supply chains that allow for the delivery of millions of vaccines from the point of manufacture to the point of immunisation.
It has also developed a vaccine hub in Abu Dhabi that can accommodate more than 120-million vaccines at temperatures of between -30°C and 8°C and hosts the UAE’s largest “freezer farm”, which can store more than 11-million vaccine doses requiring ultra-cold temperatures of as low as -70°C .
According to the chairman of the Hope Consortium, Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, Abu Dhabi’s strategic location as a medical and life sciences hub makes it a natural partner to support Covax’s global mission.“Since no one is safe until everyone is safe, it is imperative to ensure that all nations across the world possess the capabilities required to store and administer a wide array of vaccines globally available,” Al Shamisi said.