The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have launched a network of laboratories to reinforce genome sequencing of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, in Africa.
Twelve specialized and regional reference laboratories in the network will provide sequencing, data analysis and other technical support services to the countries where they are located as well as to neighbouring countries and countries in their sub-regions.
In a statement, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti says, “As we continue to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, being able to not only track its evolution, but also assess the possible mutation of the virus is crucial to mounting an effective response.”
Moeti says, “Through this new laboratory network dedicated to genome sequencing, we can better develop vaccines and treatment which are tailored to Africans and eventually bring COVID-19 under control.”
African countries are signing up to a ground-breaking initiative, which aims to secure at least 220 million doses of the vaccine for the continent, once licensed and approved.
All 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest in COVAX, a global initiative which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the WHO.
The partners are working with governments and manufacturers to procure enough vaccine doses to protect the most vulnerable populations on the continent.
Through the Gavi-coordinated COVAX Facility, the initiative seeks to ensure access for all, both higher and middle-income countries which will self-finance their own participation, and lower-middle income and low-income countries which will have their participation supported by the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
There are eight countries in Africa that have agreed to self-finance their vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility. This expression of interest will turn into binding commitments to join the initiative by 18 September, with upfront payments to follow no later than October 9, 2020.