Africa, the continent with the world’s lowest vaccination rate, is going ahead with plans to procure Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine undeterred by the US Food and Drug Administration’s warning about the inoculation.
The FDA earlier this month said that it was adding a warning to J&J’s vaccine fact sheet after 100 reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves, among people who had received the shot.
J&J’s single dose is attractive for nations in the continent where 40% of the people survive on less than $1.90 a day and getting a vaccine means losing a day’s wage. Transporting vaccines into remote areas across dense forests and deserts is another challenge faced by governments looking to inoculate their people as cases surge in the continent. An added advantage is J&J’s vials can be kept at the temperature of a normal refrigerator.
So far, the African Union has ordered 400 million J&J vaccines. The US is also sending millions of doses to the continent in the form of donations, and South Africa alone has ordered 31 million doses separate of the African Union’s arrangements.
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“We have letters of credit and all the paper work to receive some J&J vaccines,” Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, director-general of Ghana’s health service said in an interview. Looking at the cost-benefit analysis, “it is much safer to take the vaccine,” he said.
The Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team was set up by the African Union to acquire additional vaccine doses so that the continent can attain a target immunisation of 60%.
Only 1.3% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people are fully vaccinated, meaning that hundreds of millions of people are still vulnerable to infection and severe illness.
To date 6.07 million Africans are confirmed to have been infected with the disease and almost 155 000 have died. In the last week alone deaths have risen more than 40% as the continent is in the grip of a severe third wave of infections