Mbabane: Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi has announced that about 108 000 indicative doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected in the Kingdom by mid/late February.
Speaking during the press briefing held at the cabinet offices on Tuesday, the Minister said the Kingdom of Eswatini is a participant of the COVAX Facility through which the country is expecting to receive 20% of the population’s vaccine doses.
Nkosi said it should be noted that the country might have two (2) or more candidate vaccines used in country as and when additional vaccine candidates receive regulatory approval for emergency use listing. For this first batch the vaccine doses expected are AstraZeneca vaccines.
AstraZeneca is a vaccine used to protect people aged 18 years and older against COVID-19. COVID-19 is caused by a virus called coronavirus (SARS CoV 2).
COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca stimulates the body’s natural defences (immune system). It causes the body to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the virus. This will help to protect you against COVID-19 in the future. None of the ingredients in this vaccine can cause COVID-19.
AstraZeneca was co-invented by the University of Oxford and its spin-out company, Vaccitech. It uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees and contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body.
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has already been granted a CMA or emergency use in 20 countries, spanning four continents including a number of Latin American countries, India, Morocco and the UK.
In an interview with Independent News, the Minister explained that the country will use the AstraZeneca vaccine because its profile fits with other vaccines we provide to children thus providing us with the required cold-chain infrastructure in-country along with trained personnel for its delivery nationwide.
The vaccination process will follow a phased approach since not all the vaccines will become available in country at the same time.
The approach will come in three (3) phases; Phase 1 will be Health care providers in the public and private sector Doses remaining from phase 1 will be moved to the phase 2 group which comprises of the elderly population 60 years and above People living with comorbidities which make them more vulnerable to fatality.
Phase 3 will be Essential workers outside the health sector (for example Security forces, fire department, teachers, immigration officers, customs, etc.) Communities that cannot practise social distancing and Travellers.
The Minister said Eswatini expects to obtain about 15% (237,328 doses) of the population’s doses from the 270 million doses that were secured by the African Union.
Minister Nkosi said the expected breakdown of the vaccine doses from this platform (African Union) will be as follows; Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine (43,950 doses); AstraZeneca/Oxford University Vaccine (87,899 doses) and Johnson & Johnson Vaccine (105,479 doses). The vaccine doses from the Africa Medical Supplies Platform of the African Union are expected to start arriving in the second quarter of 2021 in a phased approach.
The Minister said Eswatini is also exploring direct procurement to facilitate the acquisition of additional vaccines to cover the eligible population.
She added that to source additional vaccines, the Ministry has approached the Serum Institute of India which has a sub-licensing agreement with AstraZeneca/Oxford University to manufacture their vaccine for the African region and the South East Asia Region.
She revealed that Government has ordered 2 million doses from the Serum Institute of India in phases with the first phase expected in the second quarter of 2021.
Serum Institute of India is an Indian biotechnology and pharmaceuticals company. It is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. It is located in the city of Pune, India, and was founded by Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966. The company is a subsidiary of the holding company Poonawalla Investment and Industries.
Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) President Bheki Mamba said as the union for health workers, they welcome this update and the news about the coming vaccine. He said they appreciate that the first group to be vaccinated will be health workers because these people are the building block for the health system. He said vaccinating them will enable the health system to continue providing service to the people.
However, Mamba expressed his concern about the government not coming up with a clear plan about what will happen after the donated vaccines become depleted. He said the government should come up with more commitments of getting more vaccines so to vaccinate the whole nation. He said vaccinating health workers and those aforementioned groups might not be enough because people will still flood to the hospital if they are not vaccinated.
The news about the coming vaccine comes after the coronavirus has claimed over 500 lives of emaSwati and infected over 15 000 people in the country. At least over 10 000 people have recuperated from the coronavirus.
The World Bank has committed E318 billion (US$12 billion) to African countries to support vaccination programmes across a continent that hasn’t been able to keep pace with developed nations’ rollouts.
According to the global lender’s President, David Malpass in a statement, as quoted by News 24, the World Bank money will be in the form of grants or on “highly concessional terms. Malpass made the statement following a virtual meeting in January on the Africa Covid-19 vaccine financing and deployment strategy.
“We’re preparing emergency vaccine financing projects in 21 countries in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Niger, Mozambique, Tunisia, Eswatini and Cabo Verde to name a few,” said Malpass. “The funds are available now,” he said.
The cost of vaccinating 60 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion people would be between $10 billion and $15 billion, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control.
The continent has secured 36 percent of its vaccine needs, with 25 percent of the doses to come from the Covax initiative and 11 percent from a separate African Union program, Africa’s CDC said. But it’s far behind the rest of the world in terms of acquisition and inoculations, with richer nations having secured the scarce shots early.
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19 last March, the bank has committed $25 billion to African countries to support their health and economic recovery, and we expect to commit an additional $15 billion by June,” Malpass said.
“We urge leaders of African countries to move quickly to secure vaccinations for their populations, and to avail themselves of the financing available from us.”
Health experts claim that the worst is over when it comes to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said on Monday the country had “passed the peak” of its second coronavirus infection wave, although some of restrictions on some sectors of the economy remain in place.