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Africa not winning against COVID-19, seeks rapid access to vaccines ~Continent’s CDC chief

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Africa is not winning its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as a third virus wave sweeps the continent and countries struggle to access enough vaccines for their populations, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said on Thursday.

The COVAX programme co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fair distribution of vaccines is planning a shake-up as it has been shunned by rich countries and failed to meet the needs of the poorest, internal documents seen by Reuters show.

Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director Nkengasong said he was more worried about getting vaccines in time, regardless of where the doses came from.

“The third wave has come with severity that most countries were not prepared for. So the third wave is extremely brutal,” Nkengasong said during a weekly online briefing.

“Let me put it bluntly, we are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus so it does not really matter to me whether the vaccines are from COVAX or anywhere. All we need is rapid access to vaccines,” he said.

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Nkengasong said at least 20 countries were in the middle of the third wave, with Zambia, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo among those whose health facilities were being overwhelmed.

Africa’s third wave is spreading faster and hitting the continent harder, the WHO’s Africa head Matshidiso Moeti said at a later briefing on Thursday.

“The latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” she said.

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