The Africa Centres for Disease Control is reviewing its guidance on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford after several European nations suspended its use amid concerns about possible adverse side effects.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine was seen to be safe and efficacious and we would need to review the data. We should guide the response with strong science and evidence,” Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.
“The Africa CDC will be convening an emergency meeting this afternoon with all the experts across the continent to look at the data and what we know, and then to provide appropriate guidance to the continent.”
South Africa, which has Africa’s worst recorded Covid-19 outbreak, first sounded a note of caution on the AstraZeneca vaccine last month, suspending its planned roll-out after a small study indicated it had little impact on mild infections caused by a variant of the virus first identified in the country late last year.
Several European nations fear the shot may increase the risk of blood clots, a concern the company says isn’t backed up by evidence.
While developed countries have raced to inoculate their populations against Covid-19, fewer than half a million people have been vaccinated in sub-Saharan Africa, a region of 1.1 billion people.
Nkengasong warned that the continent will remain a source of coronavirus mutations if efforts aren’t stepped up to keep the disease in check.
“If we do what we have stated, that is vaccinate at least 60% of our population in the next two years, then this pandemic will be over,” he said.
“If we vaccinate slowly it will take us more than five years to put this pandemic behind us and we would be living with the real prospect of moving toward an endemic situation on the continent with Covid-19.”