The European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) is supporting the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) to boost COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and increase coverage in 15 African countries.
With a total of €16 million from ECHO, WHO is supporting operational and technical aspects of the vaccine rollout over 18 months in the following countries: Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Guinea; Liberia; Madagascar; Mali; Mozambique; Niger; Nigeria; Somalia; South Sudan Republic, and Sudan. The grant is also helping to reinforce the capacity of health workers to plan, coordinate and deploy the vaccines as well as monitor and document the results of the rollout and adequately investigate and report any adverse events following immunization.
The funding is part of the European Union’s (EU) humanitarian initiative for COVID-19 vaccination in Africa which aims to ensure increased access including for the most vulnerable as well as those living in hard-to-reach, remote and conflict-affected areas. It is also one of the many contributions from the EU and its Member States to the COVID-19 response. The EU also supports the COVAX Facility, the vaccines part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools-Accelerator created to develop and deliver tools to fight the pandemic.
“Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the EU, its Member States and European financial institutions have come together as Team Europe, contributing to the fight against the pandemic around the world, supporting in particular the African continent,” said Paraskevi Michou, Director General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection in the European Commission. “In addition to being a leading donor to the COVAX Facility, the EU supports local manufacturing of medicines and vaccines, the strengthening of research, analysis and sequencing capacities, as well as the improvement of health systems at regional and national levels in Africa. The EU has also provided a total of €100 million in humanitarian assistance to specifically support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa, to help ensure equitable access to vaccines for vulnerable people, including in conflict-affected or hard-to-access areas. Our strong cooperation with the World Health Organization is instrumental in implementing this programme successfully.”
Efforts are ongoing to scale up COVID-19 vaccine coverage in Africa, where only 15% of the population is fully vaccinated so far. Around 404 million of the more than 716 million doses the continent has received to date have been administered.
In a fresh drive to support countries’ scale up vaccination, WHO and partner organizations have deployed more than 60 experts on the ground to form part of country expert teams. These teams are working to strengthen coordination, logistical and financial planning, including microplanning, surveillance of adverse events following immunization as well as vaccine uptake and stock data management. WHO partners are also working with people in the communities to strengthen trust and confidence in vaccination.
“With African countries striving to expand the COVID-19 vaccination coverage, the support by the European Union injects a crucial momentum into the drive to scale up coverage on continent. Vaccination is the best protection against the adverse impact of the virus and will also prevent new variants from emerging and threatening not only Africa but the world.,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The vaccination campaigns prioritize vulnerable and high-risk populations such as health workers, older people, those with co-morbidities, in particularly living in fragile, conflict-affected and humanitarian contexts, including in refugee camps.
“Solidarity is key to ending this pandemic and to building back better. These are not just words. These principles have been already exemplified by the generous support with vaccines and funding provided by the European Union to the global pandemic response. Together in Europe, in Africa and beyond, WHO and the EU are working with local partners to ensure COVID-19 vaccination reaches the arms of everyone and that lessons learned contribute to resilient health systems,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
As the continent battles the pandemic it is also crucial to step up the efforts to address other vaccine-preventable disease as well as bolster health systems to provide accessible, quality and affordable care.