The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed 29 million Africans into extreme poverty and accounted for the loss of about 22 million jobs in African countries (African Development Bank (AfDB), Annual report 2021). Despite this, only 9.2% of the continent’s population was vaccinated against the Virus as of December 31, 2022, a rate the AfDB Report termed “the world’s lowest” and a significant obstacle to mitigating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. Cognizant of this, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), in partnership with Mastercard Foundation, kick-started ‘The Saving Lives and Livelihoods (SLL) initiative.’ The 3-year project aims to vaccinate 70% of Africa’s population and hasten the continent’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SLL joint initiative focuses on four main pillars:
- Purchase at least 65 Million COVID-19 vaccine doses
- Support effective and efficient deployment of COVID-19 vaccine doses
- Strengthen Africa’s manufacturing of human vaccines to ensure quick and scalable access
- Strengthen Africa CDC’s ability to provide strategic oversight, coordination and support
Africa CDC is collaborating with Global Health Systems Solutions (GHSS) to support the effective and efficient deployment of COVID-19 vaccine doses across nine Central Africa Region member states, including Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo Republic, Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Burundi and Sao Tome.
Since May 2022, GHSS has been intensifying efforts to enhance the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines across the Central Africa Region. Some key activities include: setting up and running new COVID-19 Vaccination Centers (CVCs), strengthening or otherwise enhancing the capacity of existing COVID-19 Vaccination Centers, and training the workforce needed to administer vaccines and managing CVC sites efficiently.
SLL Implementation in DRC
Africa CDC, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, launched the implementation phase of the SLL programme in DRC on September 22, 2022, after developing and validating a micro plan and budget. The target was establishing 15 new COVID-19 vaccination centres (11 in Kinshasa and 4 in Lualaba) and vaccinating about 5,600,000 people, amongst others.
GHSS has, since the launch, installed and ensured the functioning of seven new CVCs and one existing CVC in DRC. Four of the new CVCs are in Kinshasa, while the three others are in Lualaba. GHSS has ensured the purchase and distribution of office furniture and supplies to all eight operational vaccination centres.
On December 13, 2022, GHSS represented Africa CDC and Mastercard Foundation at the launch of a mass vaccination campaign in the Lualaba Province-DRC. Since the launch, the Organization has trained healthcare workers (8 trainers and over 200 end users, including vaccinators, data managers and site administrators), made available data collection tools to all vaccination centres and conducted site supervision to support the mass vaccination campaign. Meanwhile, IT equipment has been purchased and distributed to the eight active CVCs while awaiting the installation of the seven other vaccination centres. Plans are underway to purchase and make available tablets and other data collection tools to enhance the management of vaccination data. So far, a total of 142,744 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the eight functional CVCs.
SLL Implementation in Congo Brazzaville
Besides validating the SLL programme work plan and budget, GHSS, its sub-partner (Croix Rouge Congolaise) and the country’s Ministry of Health identified and facilitated the training of ten trainers for the COVID-19 vaccination centers and briefed to train vaccinators and data managers in the country. Following that, 56 healthcare workers and data managers for COVID-19 vaccination centres were trained in Brazzaville and 28 others in Point Noire. These healthcare workers are trained to support existing CVCs. So far, 5 CVCs are functional (3 in Brazzaville and 2 in pointe Noire), and 64 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered.
SLL Implementation in Cameroon
GHSS commenced the effective implementation of activities within the SLL programme in Cameroon by providing a mobile vaccination van to support the national vaccination campaign. The van supported the mobile vaccination team from the international vaccination centre in Yaounde. Following this support to the national vaccination campaign, a total of 111,180 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered.
Plans are on course for a need assessment to be carried out in some existing vaccination centres in the country and to set up new ones in Yaounde, Douala, Bamenda and Garoua. GHSS is equally finalizing preparations for training trainers in the different vaccination centers and providing 300 tablets for data collection.
SLL Implementation in Other Central African Region Countries
In Burundi, Gabon and Chad, GHSS facilitated the development of a work plan alongside crucial performance indicators and budgets for boosting COVID-19 vaccine uptake in each of these countries. The organization has also capacitated subcontractors in these Central African member states for the practical scale-up of COVID-19. In the meantime, plans are underway for the official launch of SLL implementation activities in these respective countries.
In Equatorial Guinea and Central Africa Republic, work plans and budgets have also been developed to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake, with plans underway to contract a sub-partner that will speed up the implementation of SLL activities in these countries. The Ministries of Health of these countries are also being awaited to approve the micro plan developed and officially launch the performance of activities in these countries.
Preparations are well on the way to developing a micro plan and budget that will boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Sao Tome.
AfDB Annual and Financial Report. (2021). https://www.afdb.org/en/annual-report-and-financial-report-2021/africas-development-context-0