The organizations coordinating the distribution of donated COVID-19 vaccines in Africa said Monday that the quality of the donations “needs to improve.”
The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and COVAX said in a joint statement, “The majority of the donations to-date have been ad hoc, provided with little notice and short shelf lives,” making it “extremely challenging for countries to plan vaccination campaigns and increase absorptive capacity.”
COVAX is the U.N.-backed global initiative to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
“This trend must change,” the groups said, if the donated shots are to become “a sustainable source of supply that can complement supply from AVAT and COVAX purchase agreements.”
The groups are asking donors to adhere to several standards regarding vaccine donations beginning on January 1, 2022. The considerations include: making donations in large quantities to reduce transaction costs; ensuring that the doses have at least a 10-week shelf life upon arrival in the recipient country; and informing those countries of the availability of the shots no fewer than four weeks before their arrival.
The organizing groups are also asking donors to “provide rapid response on essential information.” They said, “last minute information can further complicate processes, increasing transaction costs, reducing available shelf life and increasing risk of expiry.”
Another request for the donated doses is that they are accompanied by the “necessary vaccination supplies,” including syringes, and paid freight expenses.
According to the Reuters news agency, Africa is currently reporting one million new COVID-19 infections about every 94 days and has reported more than 8,719,000 cases since the pandemic began.
The remarks come amid concern about the spread of Omicron, a new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Omicron is the fifth WHO-designated variant of concern. It was first detected in recent weeks in South Africa, which has seen an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases. Effective today (Monday, Nov. 29), the United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other African countries.