A nurse prepares a vaccine as part of the start of the seasonal flu vaccination campaign as a preventive measure due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Santiago, Chile, March 16, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/IVAN ALVARADO
A nurse prepares a vaccine as part of the start of the seasonal flu vaccination campaign as a preventive measure due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Santiago, Chile, March 16, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/IVAN ALVARADO

I hope the AU virtual conference on vaccine development and access in Africa results in a concrete plan with measurable, timebound targets (“Start planning for vaccine development and distribution, says Cyril Ramaphosa”, June 24).

This year alone the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued measles outbreak alerts for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and the Central African Republic. Meanwhile, Gabon, Togo, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda have reported cases of yellow fever. These are diseases for which we already have vaccines. However, the disruption of vaccine programmes across the continent as a result of Covid-19 is a serious concern.

In his address to the conference Ramaphosa stressed the enormousness of the resources needed to achieve vaccine coverage at scale. But not all the solutions need to cost a fortune. Our work with organisations such as the WHO and Unicef on affordable, web-based remote cold chain solutions is one example of partnership with African innovators to solve our unique continental challenges efficiently.

If we act decisively, the work we do today to fix our vaccine distribution systems will bear fruit for decades to come. Covid-19, for all its destruction, can be the catalyst for a tech-savvy, collaborative African approach to realising better health outcomes on the continent.

Ian Lester 
CEO, Beyond Wireless

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