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    Africa Will Take Longer To Get Its First COVID19 Vaccine – Experts…

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    A man taking a swab test (courtesy photo)

    With the United Kingdom rolling out the world’s first approved coronavirus vaccine this week and other clinical trials showing promising results, the focus has swiftly turned towards the distribution of the doses worldwide and which countries will get them first, and which will be pushed to the back of the queue.

    On Thursday, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, John Nkengasong warned that “it will be extremely terrible to see” wealthy nations obtaining vaccines and African countries missing out, as he called on for an extraordinary United Nations session to discuss this “moral issue” and avoid a “North-South distrust in respect to vaccines, which is a common good”.

    Countries across Africa have largely been praised for their response to COVID-19 since the first infection was confirmed on the continent on February 14 in Egypt. Despite some observers initial doomsday predictions, the continent so far appears to have been spared the worst of the pandemic. Still, uncertainty remains and the threat of further economic pain due to the prospect of additional lockdowns have given the discussions about vaccine distribution extra urgency.

    There, have however been some challenges.

    Expressing concern over what it has branded as the continent’s “largest ever immunisation drive”, the World Health Organization has said the African region has an average score of 33 percent readiness for a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, well below the desired 80 percent.

    Meanwhile, Nkengasong has stressed that it is necessary to be realistic about immunisation campaigns due to challenges on how vaccines would be delivered across the continent, adding that it is unlikely that this will happen before the middle of 2021.

     

    What about Us?

    For Catherine Kyobutungi, epidemiologist and executive director of the African Population and Health Research Center, a big challenge regarding access to vaccines is “a lack of global solidarity”.

    “We’ve seen reports about countries like the US and UK securing a huge share of vaccine doses, which then leaves you wondering, what about the rest of us?”

    In a similar vein, the People’s Vaccine Alliance – a coalition of campaign organisations including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Global Justice Now – has condemned rich countries for “hoarding” vaccine doses to the detriment of poorer nations.

    “Wealthier nations have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021 if those currently in clinical trials are all approved for use,” it said.

    “Canada tops the chart with enough vaccines to vaccinate each Canadian five times. Updated data shows that rich nations representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far.”

    Tied to all this are financial constraints and the huge investments required to roll out vaccination campaigns, noted Benjamin Kagina, a senior researcher in vaccinology at The Vaccines for Africa Initiative, University of Cape Town.

    WHO has said getting a COVID-19 vaccine to priority populations will cost nearly $5.7bn, a sum that includes an additional 15-20 percent cost for materials, training, logistics and community mobilisation.

    “Affordability of a vaccine given the high global demand is an issue, particularly in light of the economic impact of the pandemic,” said Kagina.

    Putting aside the financial factors, experts also pointed to the substantial infrastructure and logistical challenges.

    For example, the vaccine from Pfizer/BIoNTech needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit), while the one from Moderna has to be kept at -20C (-4F). In contrast, the inoculation developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford can be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures, leading experts to say that this vaccine candidate could be the “best” option for many African countries.

    Early this year, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance launched COVAX, a global initiative that aims to distribute low-cost vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

    Once a vaccine does arrive, a number of other issues would also need to be addressed in order to ensure a successful roll-out.

    Based on an analysis carried out by the WHO, 49 percent of African countries have identified their priority populations and have plans in place to reach them.

    “High-risk groups like healthcare workers may not be difficult to reach, but most countries do not have a strategy in place to reach groups like the elderly, so new strategies will need to be developed,” said Kagina.

    Placing an emphasis on logistics, Kyobutungi noted: “In many African countries, vaccines are usually administered to children under the age of five; that’s a small segment of the population. Now we have to think about the entire population: For example how many syringes, healthcare workers, rooms, and clinics will be required for this?

    “Similarly, on a global level, in October UNICEF announced that it will be stockpiling 520 million syringes to guarantee initial supply for when the COVID-19 vaccine arrives; we have to consider the impact of demand for these essentials,” she added.

    Rolling out the vaccine in urban and rural areas is likely going to require slightly different approaches, particularly in terms of transportation, storage and education, and this would require government investment ahead of time.

    Another factor to consider is tailoring the vaccination campaigns to the way the majority of the population go about their daily lives, according to Kyobutungi.

    “Preventative healthcare services are usually accessed by women and children, men and older children generally seek healthcare when they are unwell. You will have segments of the population who will consider the opportunity cost of, ‘If I go to the clinic and have to queue there all day, will I lose a daily wage? Is this something I am willing to do?’”

    She said a potential solution to this could involve offering the vaccine at offices, events and places of worship. “Governments are going to have to think outside the box,” added Kyobutungi.

    As in other parts of the world, vaccine hesitancy is also likely to be an issue due to suspicion, fear and a history of medical colonialism. Countering this would require robust and ongoing advocacy to address public concerns, experts said.

    Regarding the potential effect of a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out on existing vaccination programmes on the continent, Kyobutungi said it would make sense for current systems to be repurposed and work in parallel with a COVID-19 campaign. This would require meticulous planning and careful resource allocation on the part of governments and the global health community, especially in order to ensure other services are not disrupted.

    So with all these factors at play, what does the timescale look like in terms of Africa and a COVID-19 vaccine?

    “It may take time but we will get there,” said Kyobutungi.

    “I expect that it will be the first quarter of 2022 by when a significant population of Africa will have been vaccinated,” she added, stressing the importance of “global solidarity in action”.

     

    By John Kenny Adeya

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    AFRICA FOCUS

    All Offensive Language, Hate Speech, Threats Of Genocide And Must Cease – EAC leaders issue Tough Orders on DRC crisis…

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    Some of the East African Community Heads of State who attended the conclave

    East African Community Heads of State yesterday deliberated on the security situation in the Eastern DRC and on measures to promote peace, stability and development in the region.

    The Heads of State emphasized that all offensive language, hate speech, threats of genocide and other politically inciting languages must cease and must be discouraged by all parties.

    The Heads of State were invited by His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya for the 3rd Conclave of the East African Community (EAC) on the peace and security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The Summit was attended by His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan, His Excellency Felix Antoine Tshisekedi  Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and His Excellency Evariste Ndayishimye,  President of the Republic of Burundi.

    Tanzania was however represented by H.E. Amb. Dr. John Steven Simbachawene, the High Commissioner of Tanzania to Kenya.

    During the summit, they committed to contribute to reconciliation and lasting peace and determined to find a swift and lasting solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in the North and South Kivu as well as Ituri Provinces.

    They also appreciated the supremacy of the Constitution of the DRC and committed to maintain a unified and secure country, with coherence and credible institutions of central government, exercising full territorial authority and recognizing that peaceful means are the best way to resolve conflicts.

    The Heads of State also accepted and adopted the Concept of Operations (CONOPs), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and Rule of Engagement Agreement (ROE) as presented by the Chiefs of Defence Forces for immediate implementation.

    “In doing so, they instructed that the Regional Force should in cooperation with the military and administrative forces of the DRC seek to stabilize and secure peace in the DRC,” the statement read in part.

    The statement added,” The Regional Force should also cooperate in implementation of the disarmament and demobilization process.

    “The Regional Force which will be constituted as an East African Community force under the EAC Protocol on Peace and Security and the EAC Treaty Article 124 on regional peace and security and Article 125 on cooperation in defence.”

    The conclave received a written brief on the political track of the Nairobi process which detailed actions and activities that have been undertaken since the last convening of the second conclave including the convening of the consultations with various armed and rebel groups within the DRC as a follow up to the consultations undertaken by the DRC with the rebel groups in Nairobi.

    The Heads of State therefore directed that an immediate ceasefire should be enforced and cessation of hostilities should commence immediately, including withdrawal from recently taken positions.

    “In doing so, the political process should be intensified by all parties in order to allow the citizens of the DRC feel safe and secure and be able to pick up and continue their respective social, cultural and economic activities.

    “The conclave further agreed and reinforced that trust and confidence-building, cessation of hostilities, unconditional ceasefire, participation in the political processes in the country, prioritization and participation in the country’s development, citizenship, presence of foreign negative elements among others are critical issues that require concerted, urgent and durable resolution.”

     

    By Kalamira Hope

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    AFRICA FOCUS

    They Want To Steal Our Gold, Coltan And Cobalt – DRC’s Tshisekedi Writes To UK’s Boris On War In Eastern DRC…

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    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R), DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda's Paul Kagame

    Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reported Rwanda to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

    According to Bloomberg, Tshisekedi pleaded with Boris Johnson and other attendees at next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda to put pressure on Paul Kagame to help resolve tensions between the two African nations over ongoing violence in mineral-rich eastern Congo.

    Rwanda is set to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled for Kigali from June 20th to 26th June, 2022.

    In an emailed statement from his office’s external press agency, Tshisekedi told the UK Premier that it is because of the gold, coltan and cobalt that Rwanda supports the March 23 Movement (M-23) to commit its abuses to have control relies on the exploitation of its natural resources.

    Tshisekedi noted, “Rwandan-backed M23 terrorists occupied and looted the town of Bunagana in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, killing young children and forcing hundreds to flee in terror.

    “The security situation in the east of the country continues to deteriorate, and fundamentally because Rwanda seeks to occupy our lands rich in gold, coltan and cobalt, for its own benefit. This is an economic war, a battle for resources, waged by Rwandan terrorist gangs.”

    Tshisekedi also called upon DRC’s international partners, in Africa, the United States and especially the United Kingdom, to condemn the invasion of his country and to pressure Rwanda to withdraw its troops from our land.

    “Given the UK’s recent $150m immigration deal with Rwanda, we hope Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to leverage his influence,” Tshisekedi pleaded.

    Tshisekedi insisted that it is a fundamental right for his country to demand respect from his neighbors, because the Congolese want peace and security in his territory.

    “We have the right to demand that our neighbors respect our territory. The people of the DRC want peace, seek security in their country of origin. Civilians in eastern Congo are innocent in the face of the brutal attack by our neighbour,” Tshisekedi told Boris.

    The UK government also recently signed a $150million deal with Rwanda to send migrants to the East African country.

     

    By Grapevine Reporter

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    AFRICA FOCUS

    Why Are You Calling Me Congo’s Enemy? I’m Saving People; Muhoozi Asks DRC Parliament…

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    Land Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Muhoozi (R) and Christophe Mboso N'Kodia (L below)

    Land Forces Commander, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba has rubbished allegations spreading through a section of DRC parliamentarians that he is supporting the deadly M23 rebels who are fighting President Felix Tshisekedi’s government.

    The Speaker of DRC’s lower house of parliament, Christophe Mboso N’Kodia Pwanga accused Muhoozi of betraying Congo, by signing a pact with Rwanda and for Uganda’s active role in the fall of Bunagana under control of M23.

    However, through his twitter handle, the First Son revealed that he is not supporting the rebel group that captured Bunagana town.

    “I heard someone in the DRC parliament say that ‘Muhoozi is an enemy of Congo’. Me? So an ‘Enemy’ of DRC is one who saves people in North Kivu and Ituri from being slaughtered by ADF in “Le triangle de la mort”,” he said.

    Undeterred by the false allegations, Muhoozi warned the cowardly FDLR and Interahamwe to stop massacring innocent men, women and children.

    “I just have one more comment on the cowardly FDLR and Interahamwe, we know you are very brave when you are massacring innocent men, women and children! Please stop running whenever you face soldiers!” he said.

    He added, “I will also say that the Congolese brothers in FARDC,  we have worked with, are great warriors! Very honourable and good soldiers! When we work together we are unstoppable!”

    Gen. Muhoozi’s statements come after Brig Gen Felix Kulaigye, the spokesperson of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) rubbished wrong propaganda that the country’s army was supporting the M23 rebels.

    He explained that Uganda government is ready to negotiate the ongoing fight between DRC and Rwanda.

    Kulayigye said that Uganda has interests in both Uganda and Rwanda have interests in DRC since they share the border with them, that is why they cannot allow any insecurity. He added that as the neutral party in this conflict, Uganda is ready to sit both countries down to resolve the matter.

    Ten Congolese Government soldiers who sustained injuries at Bunagana Town war against M23 are being treated at St. Francis Hospital, Mutolere Kisoro.

    The DRC Ambassador Jean Massala visited the victims.

    On Monday, M23 captured Bunagana, a key town that is only 60km (37 miles) northeast of Goma, which also serves as a hub for international aid organisations and the UN peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO.

    Bunagana is also an important transit point for goods being imported into Congo from as far away as China.

    The fighting caused more than 30,000 Congolese asylum seekers and 137 Congolese soldiers to cross into Uganda on Monday, according to Shaffiq Sekandi, the Kisoro District Resident District Commissioner (RDC).

     

    By Grapevine Reporter

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