No time for complacency: Zim, Africa not yet safe from corona

AFRICA has worryingly remained highly complacent in the face of a new coronavirus wave while other regions are making significant headway in the search for vaccines, a situation which the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) warns could have catastrophic consequences.

ANDREW KUNAMBURA

This comes as chief co-ordinator of Covid-19 Task Force in Zimbabwe Agnes Mahomva said Zimbabwe together with other regional countries were collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Africa CDC to participate in the clinical trials and development of the vaccines.

An expert in public health, Mahomva said individual African countries cannot afford to develop vaccines on their own.

“We are not resting on our laurels,” she said in an interview this week.

“You know developing a vaccine is an extremely expensive process. We are working with the WHO and Africa CDC which are co-ordinating the development of all 49 known vaccine processes around the world. So we are very much part of these processes so that when they are finalised, we are not left behind.

“The Africa CDC has very much been keen on our region. We are also participating in a number of trials with individual countries which are friendly to us like Russia and China. We have since set up a specific task force responsible for vaccines.,”
She however also bemoaned the complacency on the part of the public.

“We have seen a lot of negligence and this is reflecting in the numbers we are receiving. I keep saying that for as long as we continue to record new cases, we are not yet safe. So we urge everyone to play their part,” Mahomva said.

According to Africa CDC, the number of confirmed cases on the continent has reached 1 759 794.

The continental disease control and prevention agency said in a statement that the death toll related to the pandemic stood at 42 336 as of Wednesday afternoon. A total of 1 438 841 people infected with Covid-19 have recovered across the continent so far, the Africa CDC said.

The most Covid-19 affected African countries in terms of the number of positive cases include South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

The southern Africa region is the most affected region, both in terms of the number of confirmed infections as well as the number of deaths, while the North Africa region is the second according to the Africa CDC.

John Nkengasong, Africa CDC director, said: “The time for the continent to prepare for the second wave is now.”

He urged the continent to prepare for the second wave as the number of new cases in several African countries is increasing.

The ominous warning comes as Russia, China and the United States announced significant progress in the making of vaccines, which if clinically approved, will start being used at the end of this month, albeit with demand far outstripping supply.

This, experts warn, implies that it will take a long time before the drug comes to Africa, although China — four of whose 13 vaccines it is developing are currently being tested — has pledged to donate some of the vaccines to African countries on approval. Zimbabwe stands to benefit because of its close relations with the Asian economic giant.

A vaccine jointly developed by American company Pfizer in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech was found to be 90% effective during its ongoing phase three trial and could be in use in a matter of weeks.

South Africa recently said it would launch clinical trials of a US-developed coronavirus vaccine with 2 900 volunteers, the second such study in the African country worst hit by the disease.

Known as NVX-CoV2373, the vaccine was developed by US biotech company Novavax from the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease. It will be administered to the first volunteer in the randomised, observer-blinded trial.

“It’s a two-dose schedule, and they [volunteers] get two [jabs] either of vaccines or placebos … spaced three weeks apart,” lead investigator, Professor Shabir Madhi, of the Johannesburg-based University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), said.

An expert in public health, Mahomva said individual African countries cannot afford to develop vaccines on their own.