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After Congo returned 1.3m vaccine doses, hospitals overwhelmed by COVID cases

After Congo returned 1.3m vaccine doses, hospitals overwhelmed by COVID cases
June 14
11:18 2021

President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says hospitals in Kinshasa, the country’s capital, are overwhelmed by COVID infections.

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This is as the country is hit by a third wave of the infection.

The statement by the president comes after the country in April said it would return 1.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to COVAX after determining it cannot administer them before they expire in June.

The rise in infections has been linked to the low vaccination rate in the country.

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The country started redeployment of the vaccine to other African countries on April 29.

In March, Congo received 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX initiative.

But the government decided to pause rollout of the vaccine after the suspension of its use by several European countries owing to concerns of blood clots.

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“You know very well that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been and continues to be problematic, both in terms of side effects but also in terms of trust with the population,” Tshisekedi said.

Congo later launched its vaccination campaign in April after the European Medicines Agency concluded that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risk.

But since the vaccination launch in April, less than 30,000 doses have been administered in the country.

Speaking with journalists on Saturday, the president said he will take measures to curb the spread of the Delta variant which originated from India and highly infectious.

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“I am going to take drastic measures to deal with this upsurge of the disease. We’re talking about the Indian variant in particular,” he said.

Although Congo, like many African countries, has confirmed relatively few cases, the virus has killed a number of prominent politicians and the country has been left vulnerable to more contagious variants owing to low vaccination.

The country recorded 439 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, one of the highest daily tallies since the pandemic began.

In total, Congo has recorded 35,228 cases and 834 deaths.

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Experts have said limited testing means cases and deaths are likely to be heavily underreported. 

They also say hospitals are ill-equipped to deal with a new wave of the infection.

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