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..