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EU pushes for COVID jabs in Africa as supply ‘no longer’ an issue

Top European Union officials have said low absorption of COVID-19 vaccines in African countries had become the main problem in the global vaccine rollout following a recent increase in supplies of jabs.

African nations began their vaccine campaigns much later than wealthier states which rushed to secure the initially limited doses starting in late 2020.

But in recent months, supplies have increased exponentially, and many states have trouble absorbing them, with some, such as Congo and Burundi, having used less than 20 percent of available doses, according to figures from Gavi, a nonprofit global vaccine alliance.

“The problem seems no longer to be the level of donations,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a news conference in Lyon on Wednesday.

“The problem is absorption,” he added at the end of a meeting of EU health and foreign ministers, which he chaired as France holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

EU diplomats said that vaccines’ short shelf life, limited storage facilities, poor healthcare infrastructure and vaccine hesitancy were among the main reasons that hampered vaccination in Africa.

Separately, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would increase spending to boost vaccinations in African states that were lagging behind.

“We have to make efforts to accelerate vaccinations, especially in African countries where vaccination rates are the lowest,” she said at a conference in Dakar, Senegal.

She added the EU would spend 125 million euros ($143 million) to help countries train medical staff and administer doses, in addition to 300 million euros already committed for this purpose by the EU and its states.

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