Britain’s recognition of Africa-administered vaccines is regrettable

নিক Reuters file photo: Director of the Centers for Disease Control in Africa (CDC) John Nikengasang spoke during an interview with Reuters at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 11, 2020.

By Ainat Mercy and George Obulutsa

Nairobi (Reuters) – The top health official of the African Union (AU) has called Britain’s lack of recognition for coronavirus vaccines administered in Africa a double-edged sword, sending a misleading public health message on Thursday.

England announced last week that it would expand its list of countries recognizing the vaccine and add 117 more out of the initial list in the United States and Europe. None of those countries are in Africa. The British government sets coronavirus policy for England, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own rules.

John Nekengasong, director of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said: “We regret that the UK will take this position. We urge them to review it because it does not speak to a spirit of true solidarity and cooperation.”

“If … you send us vaccines and we use those vaccines and you say you don’t recognize people vaccinated with that vaccine … it sends a very challenging message to us,” he said.

The British High Commission in Kenya said in a joint statement with Kenya’s health ministry on Tuesday that it would take time to set up a system to identify vaccine certificates for international travel.

Echoing World Health Organization official Richard Mihigo, he said the issue was primarily about certification.

“We need to see how these certificates can be mutually recognized by different countries,” Mihigo, WHO’s Africa coordinator for the vaccination and vaccine development program, told a news conference on Thursday.

However, vaccination rates in Africa are still very low. Only 4% of Africans have been vaccinated and most of the continent remains in the middle of the third wave, Nkengasong said.

The WHO Africa said in a separate statement that shipments of monthly vaccines across the continent would have to jump sevenfold to reach the UN vaccination target of 70% of the population.

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