(Refiles Dec. 31 story adding co-leaders of COVAX programme inparagraph 10)NAIROBI, Dec 31 (Reuters) – The world risks a “moralcatastrophe” if COVID-19 vaccinations are delayed in Africawhile wealthier regions inoculate their entire populations, thehead of the continent’s disease control body said on Thursday.The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)hopes significant vaccination campaigns on the continent willbegin in April, its head, John Nkengasong, told reporters.”That’s a long way to go given that this virus transmitsvery quickly,” he said, adding that in Africa, “the second waveis here with a vengeance”.Cases of the new coronavirus increased by nearly 19% sincelast week and deaths increased by 26%, according to Africa CDCdata. Africa has recorded 2.7 million coronavirus infections and64,000 deaths as of Thursday, it says. South Africa, where a new variant of the virus has beendetected, recorded 82,000 cases in the past week, he said.”We cannot delay, we need those vaccines and need them now,”Nkengasong said.The major blockers to vaccinations beginning in Africa areglobal availability of doses and financing, he said.Wealthy nations have acquired vaccines in excess of whatthey need, he said.”We don’t have to get into a moral crisis, where thesethings are stocked in the developed world and we in Africa arestruggling to have,” Nkengasong said. The African Union is in talks with the European Union,Canada and pharmaceutical companies to secure vaccines, he said,in addition to what Africa has been promised by the COVAXprogramme, co-led by the World Health Organization, Gavi theVaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic PreparednessInnovations. COVAX is a global scheme to deliver COVID-19vaccines to poorer countries”This would easily become a moral catastrophe if we shouldnot come together as one to address going forward as early aspossible in 2021 and meet Africa at its point of need.”Approval processes for various vaccines will likely befast-tracked through a central African Union process, he said.A handful of nations on the continent are further along.Morocco said earlier this month it plans to roll out China’sSinopharm vaccine within weeks as soon as its Phase 3 trials areover, while Egypt received its first shipment of Sinopharmvaccines on Dec.11. L1N2IO22Z L8N2IQ70D South Africa expects to get the COVAX vaccine by the secondquarter of 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. TheCOVAX alliance said on Dec. 18 its first deliveries were due inearly 2021, without giving a specific date. African governments should learn the lesson that localmanufacturing of vaccines and strong testing capacities arecritical, Nkengasong said, noting that the continent faced thesame scenario of a scramble for vaccines – and Western nationsfar ahead – more than a decade ago during the H1N1 swine fluoutbreak.South Africa to get firm date on delivery of vaccine by earlyJanuary, experts say ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>
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