Congo’s COVID Vaccination Campaign

Received by Health Minister Eteni Longondo, the delivery of 1.6 million doses to Congo is part of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.

UPDATE: Congo’s Health minister yesterday suspended roll out of the vaccination campaign due to concerns with the astra zeneca injections causing blood clotting in some persons.

As promised by COVAX, the international COVID vaccination alliance, the Congo received its first delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines March 2.  Congo’s Health Minister announced the four provinces most affected by the pandemic will begin vaccinating by the end of March. With 75 % of the reported COVID cases, Kinshasa will see the most activity and provide a test of the vaccine protocol which calls for health and social workers to receive the first doses.  They will be followed by those most vulnerable to the virus, with pre-existing conditions, and finally all persons over 55 years of age.

Subsequent vaccine deliveries from COVAX will supply Congo with a total of 6 million Astra-Zeneca doses developed in the UK but manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.  COVAX has announced it is on track to provide 2 billion doses of COVID vaccines to 92 low income countries by the end of this year.  All African nations should be capable of matching Congo’s vaccinations’ goal of vaccinating 20 per cent of the population in 2021.  “We will only be safe anywhere if we are safe everywhere,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the COVAX international partner responsible for delivery of the vaccines.

Of the two vaccines first approved for use in the U.S., 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be distributed by COVAX in the first quarter of this year.  This total is dwarfed by the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab of 336 million doses largely produced in India and to be administered worldwide by mid year. A half billion of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine are to be received by COVAX as well as the U.S. developed and soon to be approved Novovax doses which may result in 1.1 billion additional doses provided by purchases from U.S. companies.

After four years of the Trump administration’s rejection of international cooperation, President Biden announced at the February meeting of the G7 developed nations a U.S. contribution of $2 billion to COVAX. The commitment also includes another $2 billion conditioned on fulfillment of pledges by other nations in the G7 group.

Congo’s vaccination campaign continues the country’s effective COVID response begun after the first case was diagnosed the second week of March 2020.  The Congolese President Tshisekedi declared a public health emergency by the end of that month enabling him to close schools and places of worship along with a ban on large gatherings and travel from Kinshasa to the rest of the country.  An excellent article by human rights activist Pascal Kambale describes how the new President was also able to take advantage of the closure of Parliament and other pandemic related conditions to strengthen his political position vis a vis the formidable bloc of former President Kabila’s supporters.   http://congoresearchgroup.org/impacts-covid19-on-democratic-process-in-the-drc/

After the year long closure, Congo’s National Assembly is due to reconvene this month.

As noted in the last posting on this site, Congo’s total number of COVID cases is far lower than in its trade partners of the industrialized world.  With a fast growing population of over 91 million persons, the third largest in sub Saharan Africa, the Congo has reported 26,405 cases with 711 deaths due to the virus.  In my home state of Missouri in the U.S., there have been 574,000 cases with 8,750 COVID related deaths among a population of 6.14 million persons.

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