As COVID-19 cases in Africa rise for the third week running and vaccines are increasingly scarce, 47 of Africa’s 54 countries, representing 90 per cent of the African population, will miss the September target of vaccinating 10 per cent of their people unless Africa receives 225 million more doses of vaccine.
This was revealed at the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body, as stakeholders called on wealthy nations to share COVID-19 vaccines with the continent.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said: “As we close in on five million cases and a third wave in Africa looms, many of our most vulnerable people remain dangerously exposed to COVID-19. Vaccines have been proven to prevent cases and deaths, so countries that can, must urgently share COVID-19 vaccines. It’s do or die on dose sharing for Africa.”
At 32 million doses, Moeti said Africa accounts for under one per cent of the over 2.1 billion doses administered globally, with just two per cent of the continent’s near 1.3 billion people receiving one dose and only 9.4 million Africans fully vaccinated.
The United States President Joe Biden’s planned announcement that the US will purchase and donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union is an important step forward, said the regional director, adding that, “This comes as we see other countries such as France also making tangible deliveries via COVAX. The tide is starting to turn. We are now seeing wealthy nations beginning to turn promises into action.”
While more vaccines are vital, Moeti reiterated that some African countries must ramp up actions to swiftly roll out the vaccines they have. “While 14 African countries have used from 80 per cent to 100 per cent of the doses they received through the COVAX Facility, 20 countries have used less than 50 per cent of the doses received. 12 countries have more than 10 per cent of their AstraZeneca doses at risk of expiring by the end of August.
“We need to ensure that the vaccines that we have are not wasted because every dose is precious. Countries that are lagging behind in their rollout need to step up vaccination efforts,” she added.
She, however, noted that several African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire and Niger Republic were seeing more success by adjusting their vaccine rollout strategies, adding that WHO recommends spreading vaccinations beyond large cities into rural areas, prioritising vaccines that are close to expiring, tackling logistical and financial hurdles and working to boost public demand for vaccines.