The COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the continent and affected routine immunization services in many countries.

In the first year of the pandemic, WHO estimated that planned vaccination drives were disrupted in at least 15 African countries, leaving millions at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, yellow fever and polio.

When we vaccinate communities, we protect them from disease and prevent illness and death. We must continue to protect and bolster routine immunization services, as response and recovery efforts to COVID-19 continue.

Several initiatives have been put in place to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines on the continent. The African Union Commission together with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have set up the Consortium for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials (CONCVACT) to ensure development of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent. WHO is collaborating with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to co-lead The COVAX Facility to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines globally. COVAX has already engaged 186 countries worldwide – including 52 countries in Africa – and aims to deliver 2 billion doses globally for high-risk populations by the end of 2021, including 1 billion doses for low and middle-income countries.

Other initiatives include the WHO AFRO-established African COVID-19 Vaccine Readiness and Deployment Taskforce (ACREDT), the global COVID-19 Vaccine Country Readiness and Delivery Group (CRD), the African Sub-Regional COVID-19 Vaccine Readiness and Delivery Teams (SACREDT), and the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) at the African Union. Together, these initiatives are working to prepare countries for Africa’s largest-ever vaccine drive and to secure COVID-19 vaccines for Africa’s population.