Next Steps for Africa’s Response

Strict lockdowns are no longer the best way to contain COVID-19, Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong said yesterday. He praised South Africa’s response to the recent wave of Omicron infections given the milder cases with the variant, Reuters reports.
“The period where we are using severe lockdowns as a tool is over. We should actually be looking at how we use public health and social measures more carefully and in a balanced way as the vaccination increases,” Nkengasong said.
Currently, less than 10% of Africa's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, in an interview with PRI’s The World, Nkengasong highlighted progress on the continent:

  • At least 9 countries—including South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, and Egypt—are working on vaccine production; Egypt is already producing ~3.5 million doses of vaccines, and South Africa is beginning to produce vaccines too.

In tandem, Nkengasong said, there is a need to increase vaccine uptake by boosting workforce capacity, last mile distribution logistics, and community engagement. He also outlined research questions to explore why outcomes have been less severe than earlier predictions of a much higher pandemic toll on Africa: 

  • Could exposure to malaria and even other coronaviruses that cause the common cold in Africa have led to the production of certain antibodies that lessened COVID-19's impact on the continent?
  • Are all infections and deaths being counted?

On the interreaction of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19: Nkengasong noted that people infected with HIV tend not to clear SARS-CoV-2, creating an opportunity for new variants to emerge. He also warned that COVID-19 could erode the past few decades’ significant progress in controlling HIV/AIDS.
From corruption to the ‘mark of the beast’ – why countries like Malawi are struggling against Covid – The Guardian (commentary)
A Texas team comes up with a COVID vaccine that could be a global game changer – NPR Goats and Soda

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