MONROVIA; 96,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Liberia as the first part of the 384,000 doses that are expected to be delivered to the country over the next few months through the COVAX Facility, the global initiative that is leading efforts to secure fair and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world, including low and middle-income countries.
The Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and Dee-Maxwell Kemayah respectively, were present at the arrival ceremony, together with the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Niels Scott, the Ambassador, Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU), Laurent Delahousse, the Ambassador of France, Michaël Roux; Germany, Hubert Jäger; United Kingdom, Neil Bradley; and the United States, Michael A. McCarthy, as well as the Chargé d’Affaires of Ireland, Kate O’Donnell; and other representatives of multilateral agencies.
Team Europe (EU and its Member States) is one of the lead contributors to COVAX with over USD 2.6 billion.
According to European Union Media Advisory, these vaccines will allow Liberia to start the implementation of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. They will be instrumental in enhancing Liberia’s resilience to the COVID-19 virus.
The European Union, together with the European Union Member States represented in Liberia (France, Germany, Ireland and Sweden) remain committed to supporting the Government and the People of Liberia in the response to COVID-19.
Announcing the EU contribution to COVAX on 19 February 2021, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Last year, as part of our Coronavirus Global Response, we committed to ensuring universal access to vaccines everywhere on Earth, for everyone who would need them. COVAX is best placed to help us reach this goal. We want to make sure vaccines are soon delivered to low and middle-income countries. Because we will only be safe if the whole world is safe.”
Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, added: “COVAX is our best hope that all our partners, in Africa and elsewhere, have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The EU has been leading efforts in international fora, such as the G20 and G7, to guarantee that collectively we ensure that COVID-19 vaccines become a global public good.”
Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, stressed: “Humanism and solidarity are essential values for Europe. These values have been our compass since the onset of the pandemic.
The EU has invested close to EUR 3 billion (USD 3.5 billion) to pre-finance the production of safe and effective vaccines, which will benefit not only the EU but citizens across the world. Vaccines produced in Europe are now going all over the world and we as Team Europe are working to share doses secured under our advanced purchase agreements preferably through COVAX with the Western Balkans, Neighborhood and Africa – benefitting above all health workers and humanitarian needs.”
The COVAX Facility aims to purchase 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, including at least 1.3 billion doses for low and middle-income countries. It will help to develop a diversified portfolio of vaccines, negotiated with different suppliers, and covering different scientific technologies, delivery times and prices.
The COVAX Facility is a risk-sharing mechanism: it reduces the risk for manufacturers who invest without being sure about future demand, and it reduces the risk that countries would fail to secure access to a viable vaccine.
The European Union is committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world, and to promote global health.
The EU’s efforts to develop and produce an effective vaccine will benefit all in the global community. The EU investment in scaling up manufacturing capacity will be to the service of all countries in need.
Through its Advanced Purchase Agreements, it requires manufacturers to make their production capacity available to supply all countries and calls for the free flow of vaccines and materials with no export restrictions.
Building on the EU Vaccines Strategy, the EU is in the process of setting up vaccine sharing mechanism to allow EU Member States to redirect some of the doses procured under the advanced purchased agreement, preferably through COVAX.
To date, a total of 191 countries participate in the COVAX Facility, 92 of them low and middle-income economies eligible to get access to COVID-19 vaccines through Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). Most of these are in Africa.
Vaccines will be procured and delivered to countries by the UNICEF Supply Division. The fast arrival of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines has shown that multilateralism and multi-actor partnerships work to solve the most pressing problems of our time.
However, tension is said to be brewing in Liberia as to who would be the first group of people to be vaccinated with COVID-19 Vaccines.
Some pro-government loyalists have proposed that the old people from 55 years and above should be the first batch to be vaccinated.
Others are recommending that the vaccines should begin with health workers, follow by senior public officials.
As the debate on who to be vaccinated first continuous, some Liberians have planned to boycott vaccines coming from China, adding that they would only accept the one from the West.
Yet, others are of the view that the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines in Liberia should not be reduced to international geo-political interests, pitting the COVID-19 vaccines from the West against COVID-19 vaccines from China and/or Asia.
“The primary concern of the Liberian nation is to accept the COVID-19 vaccines that work best for all and sundry no matter their country of origin as health services should never be politicized or geo-politicized,” said a Liberian health expert, who prefers anonymity for this story.
However, The ‘Investigative’ INDEPENDENT newspaper is aware that in other countries such as the United States of America (USA), where the U.S. supply of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be limited at first, CDC provided recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first.
CDC’s recommendations are based on those from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of medical and public health experts.
The recommendations were made with these goals in mind: “Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible; Preserve functioning of society; reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.”
While CDC makes recommendations for who should be offered COVID-19 vaccine first, each state has its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated first and how they can receive vaccines.
CDC recommends that initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine be allocated to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. This is referred to as Phase 1a. Phases may overlap. CDC made this recommendation on December 3, 2020.
Groups who should be offered vaccination next (1b and 1c)
CDC recommends that in Phase 1b and Phase 1c, which may overlap, vaccination should be offered to people in the following groups.
Phase 1b: Frontline essential workers such as fire fighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, United States Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the educational sector (teachers, support staff, and day-care workers.); People aged 75 years and older because they are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19. People aged 75 years and older who are also residents of long-term care facilities should be offered vaccination in Phase 1a.
Phase 1c: People aged 65—74 years because they are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19. People aged 65—74 years who are also residents of long-term care facilities should be offered vaccination in Phase 1a; People aged 16—64 years with underlying medical conditions which increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19; Other essential workers, such as people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health.
CDC also made it clear that as vaccine availability increases, vaccination recommendations will expand to include more groups.
“The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large enough quantities of vaccine are available. As vaccine supply increases but remains limited, ACIP will expand the groups recommended for vaccination.”