More than 40 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in East Africa’s government stores are nearing expiry, as apathy and logistical challenges slow down their administration.
In the face of an accelerated spread of the Omicron variant in recent weeks, data compiled by The EastAfrican from the regional governments’ health ministries shows that out of 74 million vaccines that the region has received in donations and purchases, the region has administered just 30.1 million doses.
Rwanda leads the EAC in dispensing the vaccines, administering over 11.4 million doses, or 83.8 percent of the 13.6 million it has received.
Tanzania has given out about half of its vaccines — 2.04 million out of the 4.4 million received. Kenya is third, having administered nine million doses out of the 23.2 million it has received. Uganda has the highest number of vaccines sitting in its stores, having administered 8.9 million doses of the 32.09 million received.
Sub-Saharan Africa has administered 153 million doses of the 317 million received, according to the African Union’s Partnership for Evidence-based Response to Covid-19 research.
Given the short lifespan of many of the donations from the West, governments are finding it difficult to dispense them within required timelines.
At the end of November, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (Avat), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and Covax noted that the majority of the donations have been ad hoc.
“This has made it extremely challenging for countries to plan vaccination campaigns and increase absorptive capacity. To achieve higher coverage rates across the continent, and for donations to be a sustainable source of supply that can complement supply from Avat and Covax purchase agreements, this trend must change,” they said in a joint statement.
“Countries need predictable and reliable supply. Having to plan at short notice and ensure uptake of doses with short shelf lives exponentially magnifies the logistical burden on health systems that are already stretched. Furthermore, ad hoc supply of this kind utilises capacity — human resources, infrastructure, cold chain — that could be directed towards long-term successful and sustainable rollout. ”


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