Africa health chief John Nkengasong urges use of double Covid-19 vaccine brands if needed

ADDIS ABABA (BLOOMBERG) – The African Union’s health agency said countries on the continent should use more than one type of Covid-19 shot to complete people’s vaccine cycles if needed, as several states are facing shortages.

“In the event that there is absolute clarity that people will not get their second doses, it’s better to opt for that, than not get their full immunisation,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an online briefing Thursday (May 20).

“There’s a likelihood that given what’s going on in India, there will be a significant delay,” for countries that are using the shot developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford, he said.

Nkengasong said countries should be looking at options for “if and how to get Johnson & Johnson vaccines” that are available to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team as an alternative. That wouldn’t be as a booster shot, “but a whole new effort to close the loop of immunisation.”

“It’s a single-dose vaccine and I don’t think from an epidemiological standpoint we need to wait until the antibodies from the first immunisation wane before administering the J&J vaccine,” he said.

Nine African nations including South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Uganda, Botswana, Zambia and Kenya have reported the B1617 strain that is devastating India and which initial studies show spreads more easily.

“The way this virus circulates and transmits suggests it’s a question of time before this variant will be spreading more extensively across the continent,” Nkengasong said. He again called for increased testing for the coronavirus after this dropped 6 per cent last week.

Separately, Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has called for calm from those who’ve received their first dose of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford, assuring those Kenyans they will get a second dose. The government is also holding talks with manufacturers of other vaccines, including Johnson & Johnson, he said via Twitter.

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