Equitable and Feasible Distribution of SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines for All in Africa

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  • 1 School of Medicine, Stanford Medical School, Stanford, California;
  • 2 Institute for Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California;
  • 3 Partners In Health–Sierra Leone, Freetown, Sierra Leone;
  • 4 U.S. Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL), Monrovia, Liberia;
  • 5 A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, University of Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia;
  • 6 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California;
  • 7 San Francisco VA Medical Center, San Francisco, California;
  • 8 F.I. Proctor Foundation, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), San Francisco, California

As the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues, the necessity for wide-scale, global vaccine rollout to reduce the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and slow its mutation rate remains unassailable. The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative’s campaign involves a proportional framework to finance and distribute SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. However, the COVAX framework has critical limitations, including limited funding and the failure to account for the special epidemic risks and needs of its participating nations, as recommended by the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization framework. These drawbacks disproportionately impact Africa, where many nations rely on COVAX as their main source of vaccines. The current plan to vaccinate only up to 20% of participating nations’ populations is short-sighted from both epidemiologic and moral perspectives. COVAX must commit to vaccinating all of Africa and its initiative must be modified to account for the health and economic infrastructures in these countries. Lessons learned from successful vaccination campaigns, including the West African Ebola outbreak, have shown that vaccinating all of Africa is possible and feasible, and that infrastructure and human resources can support mass vaccination. To halt this global pandemic, global responsibility must be accepted to finance and equitably distribute SARS-CoV-2 vaccines to African nations. We urge COVAX to act swiftly to prevent Africa from becoming the new face of a persisting pandemic.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Abu Bakarr Rogers, 726 Serra Street, EVGR C, Apartment 872, Stanford, CA 94350. E-mail: aburog@stanford.edu

Authors’ addresses: Abu Bakarr Rogers, School of Medicine, Stanford Medical School, Stanford, CA, E-mail: aburog@stanford.edu. Mohamed Bailor Barrie and J. Daniel Kelly, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, E-mails: mohamed.barrie@ucsf.edu and dan.kelly@uscf.edu. Mosoka P. Fallah, University of Liberia, Digliotti College of Medicine, Monrovia, Liberia, E-mail: mfallah1969@gmail.com.