The ability of African countries to inoculate a critical mass of the population against COVID-19 hinges on greater involvement of the private sector in acquisition of vaccine doses, health experts said Tuesday.
Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, deputy director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said the continent’s listed firms have been encouraged to provide financial and technical support required to ramp up vaccination against coronavirus.
“Governments alone cannot tackle the COVID-19 vaccine access gap in Africa and the role of the private sector is crucial to help acquire and administer additional doses,” Ouma said at a virtual briefing on the role of private sector in accelerating vaccination in Africa.
Statistics from Africa CDC indicate the continent had imported 38 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Tuesday and administered 22 million as the crisis in India stalled efforts to ramp up inoculations and achieve herd immunity.
Ouma said that private sector participation will be crucial to boost Africa’s quest to vaccinate 60 percent of the population by 2022, contain the pandemic and hasten a return to normalcy.
He said that continental blocs are in discussion with industry to explore strategic areas of cooperation including establishment of cold chain infrastructure and campaigns to encourage vaccine uptake.
Amit Thakker, executive chairman of Nairobi-based consulting firm Africa Health Business said governments should tap into industry’s capital, technology and human resources to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“We should strengthen partnership with the private sector to streamline COVID-19 vaccine supply chains, expand access to high risk groups and suppress emergence of new variants,” said Thakker.
He said that 50 percent of Africa’s health care services are provided by the private sector, adding that private hospitals should be facilitated to import COVID-19 vaccines and administer them at a subsidized cost.
Lolem Ngong, chief of staff at Nairobi-based international health NGO Amref Health Africa, said that industry should be incentivized to boost COVID-19 vaccine equity in a continent where only a handful of people has been inoculated against the virus.
“Private sector can support vaccine research and development, local manufacturing and training of community health workers to boost uptake in rural areas,” said Ngong.