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IMF says Africa urgently needs vaccines to halt repeated COVID-19 waves

IMF says Africa urgently needs vaccines to halt repeated COVID-19 waves

A man receives a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Masaka hospital in Kigali, Rwanda, on Mar 5, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Jean Bizimana)

WASHINGTON: COVID-19 infections in Africa will likely exceed previous peaks within days, underscoring an urgent need to accelerate vaccine supplies and financing to the region, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Monday (Jun 28).

Georgieva said in a blog posting with IMF Africa Department director Abebe Selassie that sub-Saharan Africa, already with the lowest vaccination rates in the world at less than 1 per cent of the population, again risks having its health care systems overwhelmed without immediate action.

"Without significant, upfront, international assistance - and without an effective region-wide vaccination effort - the near-term future of sub-Saharan Africa will be one of repeated waves of infection, which will exact an ever-increasing toll on the lives and livelihoods of the region’s most vulnerable, while also paralysing investment, productivity, and growth," Georgieva and Selassie wrote.

"In short, without help the region risks being left further and further behind," they said, and added the longer the pandemic ravages Africa, more dangerous variants of the novel coronavirus will emerge to threaten the rest of the world.

The IMF officials urged wealthy nations to more quickly share their vaccine stockpiles with Africa through the COVAX initiative, saying that a goal should be to deliver a quarter of a billion doses to the region by September.

Vaccine manufacturers should shift supplies to Africa, while the African Union's African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team should be financed at an estimated US$2 billion, which would allow an option for the group to execute an optional contract for 180 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Georgieva and Selassie said.

They also called for the removal of cross-border export restrictions on raw materials and finished vaccines to help ensure that South Africa and India can reach full production capacity.

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Source: Reuters/ec

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