Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, says vaccines are the best hope of ending COVID-19 pandemic on the continent.
Moeti made this known in a statement posted on WHO Regional Office for Africa website.
The director spoke against the backdrop of a plan for African countries to roll out COVID-19 vaccination as the continent reported over 2.2 million confirmed cases.
She said: “The success of any immunisation campaign hinges on communities’ trust and acceptance.
“It is vital that we equip them with the right information, allay any fears and address concerns.
“Engaging communities increases the likelihood that they will take the lead on issues affecting them, eases access and use of services.
“It also facilitates comprehension and access to information, enables feedback and, critically for COVID-19 vaccination, helps in understanding vaccine safety and addressing possible adverse events following immunisation.’’
According to her, while all the efforts being made for successful immunisation campaigns are critical, without community support they can easily flounder.
She added that when COVID-19 vaccines would become available, it would be expected that they would be provided first to the most vulnerable and those at highest risk.
“ Initial groups will likely include frontline health workers, older people and adults with underlying conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
“The initial COVID-19 vaccine supplies will be limited and will not be available to everyone right away.
“WHO and other immunisation partners are providing technical support to countries in the African region to prepare for a successful COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
“Through the COVAX Facility, WHO and partners are working with governments and vaccine manufacturers to procure COVID-19 vaccine doses to cover 20 per cent of the African population, initially focusing on those at the highest risk.’’
The official called for increased collaboration with communities to enhance the uptake of vaccines once available.
“A 10-point vaccine readiness assessment tool for the 47 countries in WHO African Region finds that progress by countries in bolstering community engagement is only at 12 per cent, far below the optimal score of at least 80 per cent.
“ Community engagement – a crucial aspect for vaccine uptake – is among the least advanced categories in the assessment tool.
“Other key areas of the assessment tool are: planning and coordination, resource mobilisation, vaccine regulation, service delivery, training and supervision, monitoring and evaluation, vaccine logistics, vaccine safety and surveillance,’’ she said.