Photo: Ernest Corea - Photo: 2021

Vaccine Saved My Life, Says Head of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

By Lisa Vives

NEW YORK (IDN) — One thing the head of the agency leading Africa’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is sure of. He owes his life to the vaccine that beat the virus.

“I want to be very clear that without [the vaccine] I wouldn’t be here,” said Dr. John Nkengasong at a weekly briefing announcing the deployment of recently acquired doses.

Still, Dr Nkengasong, who heads the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he was still “struggling with Covid”.

Although he was fully vaccinated, he was re-infected and had severe symptoms.

“Perhaps the only reason I’m here with you this morning is because I had my vaccine in April,” he told a roomful of journalists. “If I hadn’t had those vaccines… I can assure you that it would have been over for me by now.

“I want to be very clear without that I wouldn’t be here, because even with the breakthrough infection the severity of the attack is so unbearable, I mean the headaches, the fevers… every part of your body is basically affected.”

Less than 2% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. African leaders blame the slow rollout on “vaccine nationalism” saying that rich countries have been buying up and hoarding doses.

Meanwhile, a vaccination center at a local mosque is seeing 700 people per day getting shots and is expected to soon reach 1,000 a day.

“This is exciting! We’re vaccinating more people than we expected,” said Yaseen Theba, chairman of the Muslim Association of South Africa after the center opened last week. “We’ll keep it going as long as people need to get vaccinated.”

Hitting its stride after a faltering start, South Africa’s mass vaccination drive gave shots to 220,000 people a day last week and is accelerating toward the goal of 300,000 per day. With large deliveries of doses arriving and some vaccines being assembled here, South Africa appears on track to inoculate about 35 million of its 60 million people by the end of the year and 40 million by February.

This week, Dr Nkengasong announced the beginning of the distribution of 400 million Johnson & Johnson (J&J) doses acquired through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.

The African Union said it settled on the J&J vaccine because it is a single-shot, has a long shelf-life and had favorable storage conditions. The vaccine is being partly manufactured on the continent.

CDC said the 400 million batch is enough to immunize a third of the continent’s population and bring Africa halfway towards the goal of vaccinating at least 60% of the continent’s population.

Dr Nkengasong said the acquired doses would help save “400 million lives… just as the vaccines have saved my life.” [IDN-InDepthNews — 09 August 2021]

Photo: Dr. John Nkengasong. Credit: Africa CDC

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