U.S. to Increase Coronavirus Vaccine Assistance to 11 African Countries

© Hajarah Nalwadda/Associated Press Receiving Covid-19 vaccinations at a health center in Kampala, Uganda, last week.

The United States will increase coronavirus vaccine assistance to 11 African nations, officials said on Thursday, in an effort to prevent future variants and bolster inoculation efforts in the least vaccinated continent.

Through the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, or Global Vax, the Biden administration will provide “intensive financial, technical and diplomatic support” to African countries that have recently shown the capacity to hasten vaccine uptake, according to a statement from Rebecca Chalif, a spokeswoman for the United States Agency for International Development.

The agency said it selected a group of countries in sub-Saharan Africa — Angola, Eswatini, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia — based on the burden of Covid-19 on their populations, the capacity of their health systems, their readiness to quickly administer vaccine doses in the absence of supply constraints and their ability to effectively deploy additional U.S. investments. The agency had allocated $510 million to support global vaccination programs, and more than half of that funding will be allocated to the first group of African countries.

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The Global Vax initiative began in December to help countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, to get more shots into more arms. Even as African countries have received more vaccines, many of them have struggled to distribute them because of a shortage of the ultracold chain freezers needed to keep doses from expiring and because of the difficulties in delivering them to remote towns and villages. Vaccine hesitancy and misinformation have also posed problems.

With the Biden administration’s additional financial assistance, these 11 African countries will receive “increased U.S. government engagement and funding to rapidly assess needs and scale up the rate of vaccination, including support from experts here in the U.S. and in the field,” the statement said.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Abdi Latif Dahir

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