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WHO Urges Africa to Prepare for Vaccine Rollout

FILE - People queue to wash their hands to protect against the coronavirus before lining up to vote at a polling station, in Lilongwe, Malawi, June 23, 2020.

The World Health Organization urged African countries Thursday to prepare plans to distribute vaccinations for COVID-19 as they become available.

A WHO study found that many African countries were not ready for “what will be the continent’s largest immunization drive.”

“Planning and preparation will make or break this unprecedented endeavor, and we need active leadership and engagement from the highest levels of government with solid, comprehensive national coordination plans and systems put in place,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, was quoted as saying in a press release.

Experts warned that while the development of a vaccine was to be celebrated, it was only the first step in “a successful rollout.”

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the continent would need about 1.5 billion doses, at two doses per person, to achieve the 60% coverage needed to reach herd immunity for its 1.3 billion population, according to The Associated Press.

However, Nkengasong said vaccinations weren't likely to begin until the second quarter of 2021.

Most African countries have fared relatively well in the pandemic compared with Europe and the United States.

The continent has reported roughly 2 million cases of coronavirus and 50,000 deaths, according to the WHO.