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Africa disease control head calls on rich nations to share excess COVID-19 shots

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Countries that have ordered more COVID-19 vaccines than they need should consider distributing excess doses to Africa, the head of the continent’s disease control body said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: John Nkengasong, Africa's Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), speaks during an interview with Reuters at the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

As African countries begin to feel the effects of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said it was unlikely to secure enough vaccine shots.

Many African states are relying on COVAX, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is working to lower prices and discourage hoarding.

“Some countries have got like three times to four, five times more than what they need,” Nkengasong told a news briefing, adding that those can help poorer ones kickstart vaccination programmes to protect their citizens.

He did not name any states.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly called on governments to make a vaccine protecting against COVID-19 a “public good”.

Britain became the first Western nation to begin the mass-vaccination of its population against COVID-19, and other countries, such as Canada and the United States, may also do the same in the next few weeks.

The United Nations should convene a special session to discuss ways that will ensure an equitable distribution and access to vaccines, Nkengasong said.

The African Union-owned CDC organisation is working with the Afreximbank and the World Bank to figure out how to raise funds for the procurement of the vaccines needed for the continent.

In October, Nkengasong said Afreximbank was ready to raise up to $5 billion to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

Cases and deaths were rising in Africa, Nkengasong said, adding that more vigilance, particularly mask wearing and social distancing, was needed as end-of-year holidays approached,

“The second wave is here,” he said.

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