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Is Africa Ready to Receive Mass Stocks of Vaccines?

The announcement by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that it has developed a vaccine that interim analysis shows is 90% effective against Covid-19 marks a potential end to the pandemic but asks serious questions of Africa’s ability to administer the protection. The vaccine candidate developed with BioNTEch, which remains in trials, must be transported at -70 degrees celsius and stored in a low-temperature fridge for a maximum five days, leading to worries that Africa’s poor infrastructure will delay vaccinations or prevent them completely. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) at least 25% of vaccines are thrown away due to problems in cold chain logistics. The percentage could be higher for the Pfizer vaccine in Africa, where infrastructure is limited and around 60% of the population live in rural areas. Many African countries cannot afford to build the cold chain facilities needed, leading to fears that the vaccine will be more readily available in richer nations. Fears have also been expressed that African countries will not have the funds to procure sufficient vaccine doses when one becomes available.