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Ensuring Africa is in Line for the Covid-19 Vaccine

In the pandemic’s early days, scientists across Africa were certain: They did not want to rely on vaccines from abroad. Richer countries could hoard supplies, they feared, leaving nations with tighter research budgets behind. By mid-November, wealthy nations had reserved 51 percent of various vaccine doses even though they are home to only 14 percent of the world’s population, according to a new study by two Johns Hopkins researchers in the BMJ, a trade journal published by the British Medical Association. Distribution campaigns across Africa are not likely to begin until April, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated. Even then, far fewer doses will be sent to African countries than are being shipped to the United States and Europe. Most of Africa’s 54 nations stand to benefit from the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Assess Facility, or Covax, the World Health Organization-backed program set to divide a billion doses across 92 low- and middle-income countries next year. But $5 billion more is needed to cover vulnerable residents in target nations by the end of 2021, according to Gavi, the alliance raising funds for Covax. “Africa is often holding the short end of the stick,” said Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, deputy director of the Africa CDC. There was no evidence of direct deals between companies such as Pfizer and the globe’s poorest countries, researchers from Duke University wrote in early December, suggesting huge numbers of people will be “entirely reliant” on Covax.