African countries stick with AstraZeneca in shots rollout

Mahamadou Issoufou, president of Niger, talks to reporters after the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines from China at the airport in Niamey on Sunday. (CHINESE EMBASSY IN NIGER AND XINHUA)

The African Union has recommended continued use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, saying its benefits outweigh the risks.

During a weekly news conference on the coronavirus on Friday, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized the benefits of the inoculation and that countries should move forward with vaccinations.

As of March 15, 23.6 million doses of vaccine had been distributed on the continent

"COVID-19 vaccines remain a strategic approach for the prevention of severe cases of and COVID-19 related deaths. Africa-CDC encourages African Union member states to facilitate rapid access to safe and effective vaccines that reduce COVID-19 severity and COVID-19 related hospitalizations," Nkengasong said.

"Africa is facing significant challenges in securing access to the COVID-19 vaccines needed to achieve its goal of vaccinating at least 60 percent of the continent's population."

As of March 15, 23.6 million doses of vaccine had been distributed on the continent. The AstraZeneca vaccine, allocated principally via the COVAX facility, accounts for 20.5 million doses and is the main vaccine used in Africa, he added.

READ MORE: WHO backs AstraZeneca vaccine, says benefits outweigh risks

Many countries in Africa are relying on the AstraZeneca shot as it is cheaper and easier to store. Under the COVAX initiative, around 14.5 million doses have been delivered to African countries. According to Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa, countries are encouraged to continue with their vaccination campaigns and not to pause.

"To date, there has been no causal link established between the administration of the vaccine and the events reported," Moeti said.

"Around 7 million doses have been administered. Thirty African countries have now started vaccination of frontline healthcare workers and other priority groups," she said.

On Sunday, a batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in Niamey, capital of Niger.

President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou, Prime Minister Brigi Rafini, Niger's acting Health Minister Ahmed Boto and Chinese Ambassador to Niger Zhang Lijun attended the handover ceremony at the airport.

"I would like to ask the Chinese ambassador to convey our thanks to the Chinese government and to the Chinese people," Issoufou said.

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The president also congratulated the excellent and diverse cooperation between Niger and China.

"I take this opportunity to congratulate the dynamism of the cooperation that exists between Niger and the People's Republic of China," he said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

otiato@chinadaily.com.cn