The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, says there are over 93,000 deaths of COVID-19 recorded on the African continent.
The UN health agency gave the update on its regional official Twitter on Friday.
WHO said on its dashboard that there were more than 3.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent, with more than 3.1 million recoveries and 82,000 deaths cumulatively.
WHO, in a statement posted on its website, said that its Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, at a news conference, said the continent would take the first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine in February.
Ms Moeti said the joint UN-led COVAX initiative aimed at starting shipping about 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa in February.
She said that the immunisation rollout would be the continent’s largest ever mass vaccination campaign.
Ms Moeti, however, highlighted that the deployment was a “critical first step’’ to ensure countries access to vaccines.
“Africa has watched other regions start COVID-19 vaccination campaigns from the side-lines for too long. This planned roll-out is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines,’’ she said.
According to the health agency, the roll-out of the AstraZeneca/Oxford AZD1222 vaccine is subject to the vaccine being listed for emergency use by WHO, which is currently reviewing the vaccine and the outcome is expected soon.
Amid surging demand for COVID-19 vaccines, the final shipments will be based on production capacities of vaccine manufacturers and the readiness of countries.
WHO noted that recipient countries were required to submit finalised national deployment and vaccination plans to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility.
“The initial 90 million doses will support countries inoculate three per cent of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021.
“As production capacity increases and more vaccines become available, the aim is to vaccinate at least 20 per cent of Africans by providing up to 600 million doses by the end of 2021,’’ the agency said.
Ms Moeti also said that the announcement allowed African nations to fine-tune their planning for COVID-19 immunisation campaigns, calling on the countries to finalise their immunisation plans.
“We urge African nations to ramp up readiness and finalise their national vaccine deployment plans.
“Regulatory processes, cold chain systems and distribution plans need to be in place to ensure vaccines are safely expedited from ports of entry to delivery.
“We can’t afford to waste a single dose.”
To complement COVAX efforts, the African Union has secured 670 million vaccine doses for the continent which will be distributed in 2021 and 2022, as countries secure adequate financing, according to WHO.
In addition, about 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has already received WHO Emergency Use, have been allocated to four African countries, Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia, which have the capacity store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius, the agency said.
The COVAX Global Vaccines Facility is the vaccine pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, an initiative inaugurated in April 2020 to speed up development of medicines to treat COVID-19 and make them available to people everywhere.
The global initiative is led by WHO, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
It works to ensure as many countries as possible cooperate to pool development, procurement and allocation of any COVID-19 vaccine.