African states set to receive H1N1 vaccine soon: WHO


The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it will deliver millions of H1N1 vaccine doses to about a dozen countries in Africa in coming weeks. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, as well as Kenya and South Africa are among those slated to receive vaccine doses by May, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said today.

“In the next weeks, 10-15 countries will receive vaccine. We are doing what we can to limit the effects of H1N1 on the African continent,” Hartl told a news briefing, Reuters says. The shipment for Nigeria, expected to go in coming days, would contain about 2.8 million doses. The H1N1 virus continues to spread in West Africa, including Senegal and Ivory Coast, although clinical data is limited about its severity, the WHO said in its latest update a week ago.
“Cameroon and Senegal have been bumped up as a priority because we know there is community transmission (of the virus),” WHO spokeswoman Karen Mah told Reuters on Friday. Togo was the first African country to receive H1N1 vaccine from the WHO on February 27, she said. Eastern and southern Africa likely had an earlier peak in pandemic influenza activity at year-end, according to the WHO.

To date, the United Nations agency has delivered 3 million vaccine doses to 16 countries, including Afghanistan. Its stocks have been donated by industrialised countries and drug makers. In all 95 countries which lack access to H1N1 vaccines have requested doses from WHO. Authorities must present distribution plans and ensure that the vaccines are kept in cold storage.

The WHO also said that a review committee of external experts would hold its first meeting in Geneva from April 12-14 to examine the agency’s handling of the first influenza pandemic in 40 years, which WHO declared last June. The pandemic sparked a race to develop new vaccines by drug makers such as GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis, but many people have not taken the vaccine as the outbreak has turned out to be fairly moderate.Pregnant women and children remain at higher risk of serious complications and should be vaccinated, according to the WHO.