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Africa urgently needs COVID vaccines to stop rising infections – IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that the rate of COVID-19 infections in sub-Saharan Africa is now the fastest in the world, underscoring an urgent need to accelerate vaccine supplies and financing to the region.

This was disclosed by IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva and Abebe Aemro Selassie, director of the African Department at IMF in a blog post released on Monday.

It said the new wave will likely surpass previous peaks in a matter of days, adding that in some countries, infections are already more than double, or even triple, their January peaks.

“Only six months after the initial crisis, the region experienced a second wave that swiftly outpaced the scale and speed of the first. Now, another six months on, sub-Saharan Africa faces its third devastating wave,” the statement reads.

“The only way for the region to break free from this vicious pandemic cycle is to swiftly implement a widespread vaccination program.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, many African countries imposed movement restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

But IMF said options employed during previous waves may no longer be feasible during the third wave.

It explained that the re-imposition of containment measures would come at a high economic and social cost, which is unsustainable.

IMF decried that vaccine rollout in sub-Saharan Africa remains the slowest in the world as less than one adult in every hundred is fully vaccinated, compared to an average of over 30 in more advanced economies.

It identified seven actions that must be taken to boost widespread vaccination in Africa.

“First, it is essential to deliver vaccines to sub‑Saharan Africa as soon as possible. So, the fastest way to get vaccines to sub‑Saharan Africa is for advanced economies to share their stockpiles bilaterally or through multilateral initiatives,” the statement added.

“Second, vaccine manufacturers should speed up supply to Africa for the rest of this year.

“Third, AVATT should be fully financed to ensure coverage of 30 percent of the African Union population. This requires an estimated $2 billion, that would for example allow AVATT to execute its optional contract of 180 million doses with J&J.”

IMF said cross-border export restrictions on raw materials and finished vaccines should be removed.

It said financing of at least $2.5 billion and upfront planning will also be critical to ensure health systems can deliver shots-in-arm promptly as vaccine supply ramps up.

IMF noted that alongside vaccination efforts, countries must also ensure that their public health systems are able to handle an influx of cases.

“Finally, the magnitude of the region’s financing needs requires a coordinated effort on the part of the international community.

“Most of the international community’s financial assistance will need to come in the form of grants or concessional loans. With our colleagues from the World Bank, WHO, WTO, and others, the IMF has formed a special task force to ensure that countries get the resources and vaccines they need.”

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