Africa CDC prioritises full vaccination over Pfizer booster

The priority for Africa is to achieve herd immunity for Covid-19, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said at a weekly briefing on Thursday.

Cameroonian virologist and director of the continent’s public health agency, Dr John Nkengasong, said Africa CDC was confident that the African Union would achieve its vaccination goals by the end of the year. 

Asked if the Africa CDC would endorse a third dose of Pfizer, after the drug company Pfizer announced the study of a third booster vaccine on 24 May, Nkengasong said the continent’s health authorities were still focused on the first and second doses first. 

The African regional director for the World Health Organisation, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said possibly dispensing a third dose would first entail evaluation of its necessity and efficacy.

In response to a question about fully vaccinated people still testing positive for Covid-19, Moeti stressed that the vaccines did not completely shield individuals from getting the virus, but did reduce the viral load, leading to lower rates of transmission and reduced chances of falling severely ill or dying.

She said it was crucial for African countries to ramp up the rate of vaccinations and increase confidence in the drugs, so that the continent could reach its inoculation targets.

The latest figures show that 6.5-million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Africa, out of which some 867 000 people have died, Nkengasong said.

“The concept and philosophy of the African Union is that we leave no country behind, because we are not going to win this battle against Covid-19 on the continent if any country is left behind,” he added.

Moeti said 820-million vaccine doses were needed to reach the African Union’s year-end target.

Covax (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access), a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to vaccines, hopes to deliver 520-million doses to African countries by the end of 2021, and the African Union is set to start distributing the 400-million Johnson & Johnson doses acquired by the African Vaccine Acquisition Taskforce, Moeti said.

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