Africa is now in a state of preparation for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Scientists from the UK and the UN have launched a study to explore how a vaccine for the new coronavirus will be distributed among African nations.
The goal is to assess which method of distribution is the most sustainable once a vaccine for COVID-19 has been found and produced.
There are concerns within the scientific and medical community that making the COVID-19 vaccine widely accessible for populations within sub-Saharan Africa with mostly rural populations, will be a major challenge.
A study is currently underway by a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, who are working with the United Nations Environment Program, to explore how vaccines in Rwanda are currently distributed in the country.
Image credit: UN News/ the United Nations site
The study also aims to identify gaps in infrastructure and develop strategies for sustainable COVID-19 vaccine delivery. The findings of the study will help governments, vaccine development agencies, big pharma and logistics companies, begin to plan for the future and achieve the study's aims.
The investigation will also join forces with non-profit, commercial and academic partners to investigate the scale of the challenge involved in distributing a potentially temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccine.
A key issue with distributing effective vaccines in regions of the global South, such as sub-Saharan Africa, is temperature. This makes a universal vaccine difficult to achieve.
Summing the issue at hand, Toby Peters, Professor of Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, said: "Cold-chain will be critical in rapidly transporting and delivering COVID-19 vaccine to all communities, particularly in rural areas where electricity supply and cooling infrastructure is often non-existent or unreliable.
Rwanda is being used as a pilot, due to the majority of its population living in rural areas and being a nation with one of the lowest Gross National Incomes.
The global vaccine crisis - in which millions of infants and children around the world miss out on vaccination - has increased because of the current pandemic. While every year more than 116 million infants are vaccinated (86 per cent of all children born globally), there are still more than 13 million children around the world who miss out on vaccination.
COVID-19 fears have changed where services are operating, and have scared parents from taking their children to be vaccinated against other harmful diseases. This then leads to a vicious cycle of more disease and ill-health as when vaccination coverage goes down, more outbreaks will occur, including the transmission of other life-threatening diseases like measles and polio.
It is, therefore, imperative that governments, researchers, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, charities, nonprofits and all other players, work as hard as possible to produce and pump out a safe, effective and accessible COVID-19 vaccine for regions and populations in dire need as this will enable health services, resources and attention to be focused on other humanitarian challenges that have been neglected as a result of the pandemic.