In this edition of Business Day Spotlight, we talk about the economics of vaccinating the African population against Covid-19.

Host Mudiwa Gavaza is joined by Dr Ernest Darkoh, a founding partner of the BroadReach Group, a group of social impact businesses focused on public health issues.

Darkoh is one of Africa’s foremost public health experts, recognised by Time Magazine and the World Economic Forum. He says African countries need to adjust their expectations regarding the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

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According to Darkoh’s calculations, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention¸’s (Africa CDC’s) target of 780-million vaccinations across Africa over 12 months would require 3.5-million single dose vaccinations per day, or 437,000 an hour — working on 220 annual working days and eight hours a day. Double that for vaccines that require two doses.

If SA wants to vaccinate about 40-million people this year, that’s 182,000 per day for single dose, or 363,000 for double dose, at 45,500 vaccinations per hour — assuming no new variants derail everything, Darkoh says. “The logistics around this will multiply significantly if Covid-19 stays with us year after year like the flu.”

Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.
Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.

Darkoh frankly says that Africa has yet to effectively address issues such as malaria, HIV and hypertension. “Why do we think we’re going manage to do this Covid-19 vaccination in a year?” he says, explaining that the glitches experienced so far in trying to inoculate the population are a signal of faulty systems and structures.

At the moment, Africa is not in a place, economically, to vaccinate its population, Darkoh goes on, highlighting that in addition to the actual price of vaccines, there are many costs involved such as syringes, staff, transport, storage and training that goes into an effective rollout campaign.

However, Darkoh is hopeful, saying African countries do have the resources to afford such a rollout but that would entail a coming together as 53 countries to an extent that hasn’t been seen before.

In this regard, Covid-19 provides an opportunity for greater regional integration, he says, with the African Union and African CDC having  made big strides and doing a good job of working together on vaccine rollouts on the continent.

Manufacturing or producing vaccines locally might be more expensive in the short term, but a regional approach could help to put infrastructure in place that would help to drive down costs in the long term.

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 Business Day Spotlight is a MultimediaLIVE production.

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