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Africa in the Race for A Covid-19 Vaccine

As more vaccines against coronavirus are rolled out around the world, in the majority of African countries it is a waiting game clouded in uncertainty. Many are banking on the Covax facility spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi. The facility announced it had secured 1.3 billion doses of promising vaccine candidates for middle and lower income countries in 2021. The first tranche of doses – to be administered to pandemic frontline workers – is expected to be delivered during the first half of 2021. The facility’s advantage is in the volume of vaccines being procured. However, it would still face stiff competition – in terms of speed of access – from wealthier nations that have signed deals directly with manufacturers. Covax also faces logistical challenges, especially in lower income countries. Should the vaccines become available as anticipated, distributing them would be “a mammoth and historic task”, according to Unicef, the UN agency overseeing the logistics. It would need to transport about 850 tonnes every month of 2021 – double its usual capacity. That also would be subject to every country having cold chain infrastructure in place. Funding for both procurement and distribution is also in deficit – $4.6bn and $540m respectively – adding to the hurdles poorer countries face in the race to get people vaccinated.