Mass Covid-19 immunisation efforts have kicked off in the US, Britain and Europe, and Africa — a key vaccine development site — will soon follow suit thanks to local health authorities and the likes of the international Covax programme and Africa CDC.
However, rolling out mass vaccination efforts does not start and end with the purchase of enough doses. In several African regions, practical challenges demand innovation and leapfrogging through strategic partnerships.
Challenges around vaccine distribution in Africa
The Africa CDC has secured 780 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine with the aim to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s adult population. This would mean distributing and administering one to two million doses per day for the next 24 months.
The African Union has secured a further 270 million doses of the vaccines for distribution from April 2021. But they are not equipped for mass deployment due to practical challenges, including not having pan-continental data systems readily available to ensure effective tracking and delivery at scale.
Challenges include the fact that Africa has no model for the mass distribution of adult vaccines, let alone those that require below-freezing storage.
Some governments may do their cost-benefit analyses and decide to launch their mass vaccination efforts once other more easily distributed vaccines become available that are not cold chain dependent. This would be more ideal in terms of equitable vaccine distribution to under-resourced, at-risk or hard-to-reach populations. However, it adds time we don’t have.