Jean-Jacques Cornish

Africa will have to wait until later next year for a COVID vaccine

China’s new ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong says his host country and continent will benefit from the Chinese COVID vaccine when it is distributed.

Like the rest of the world caught up in the pandemic, Africa waits impatiently for a vaccine.

Baffling the experts, Africa has had comparatively low numbers of infections.

These infections are starting to increase, but thus far Africa accounts for just over two million of the more than 60 million cases worldwide.

Medical experts say there has been an increase in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as the winter weather closes in.

South Africa, with more than 502000 infections and over 21 000 deaths tops the continental COVID list.

These experts fear it will later next year and perhaps even 2022 before Africa sees widespread distribution of vaccines.

It is unlikely, they say, that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are currently the frontrunners in the northern hemisphere, will be distributed in Africa.

Cost is not the chief obstacle.

According to the International Vaccine Access Centre at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,  the storage and transportation of the vaccine are the chief obstacles.

The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at minus 80 degrees.

Distributing it requires special refrigerated storage facilities and refrigerated aircraft and vehicles to move it around.

Africa requires a more hardy medication that does not require such expensive care.

There is also a question of safety.

Fourteen years ago Pfizer had to pay compensation to the 11 families in Nigeria’s Kano state who lost children in tests on the anti meningitis vaccine Travan.

African nations responded angrily early in the pandemic to French doctors suggesting Africans would be good subjects for testing a COVID vaccine.

The movement calling itself Africans Are Not Lab Rats has silenced similar suggestions.

However it is undeniable that if a vaccine is be effective in Africa, it needs to be tested here..

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.