Africa desperately short of COVID vaccines even as a new wave of infections sweeps across the continent

AFRICA – In the global race to vaccinate people against COVID-19, Africa is tragically at the back of the pack, barely out of the starting blocks. This even as numbers rise every day. As of yesterday, Africa CDC reported a cumulative total of 4,990,089 COVID cases in the continent.

In South Africa, which has the continent’s most robust economy and its biggest coronavirus caseload, currently at 1.7 million cases, just 0.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a worldwide tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University. South Africa is leading with the number of fatalities in the continent.

Hundreds of thousands of the country’s health workers, many of whom come face-to-face with the virus every day, are still waiting for their shots, a very worrying situation.

In Nigeria, Africa’s biggest country with more than 200 million people, only 0.1% are fully protected. As of yesterday, the west African nation had recorded 166,982 cases and 2,117 deaths.

Kenya, with 50 million people, is even lower in the vaccination chart. During the budget reading in the country yesterday, the government announced a reserve of 4.5 billion for vaccines procurement. The country has thus far reported 3,362 deaths out of over 274 thousand cases.

Uganda has recalled doses from rural areas because it doesn’t have nearly enough to fight outbreaks in big cities.

Chad didn’t administer its first vaccine shots until this past weekend, an alarming sentiment, even though the nation has recorded relatively few cases of COVID-19. There are at least five other countries in Africa where not one dose has been put into an arm, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Morocco, the most affected country in North Africa, recording over 9,000 fatalities has administered close to 15.4 million vaccines, covering just about 20% of its population. It is one of the countries in Africa to have slightly achieved commendable immunization.

The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccines at the same time a new wave of infections is rising across Africa. The shortfall is estimated at 700 million doses.

It is extremely concerning and at times frustrating,” said Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist who is trying to ensure some of the world’s poorest nations get a fair share of vaccines in a marketplace where they can’t possibly compete.

The United States and Britain, in contrast, have fully vaccinated more than 40% of their populations, with higher rates for adults and high-risk people. Countries in Europe are near or past 20% coverage, and their citizens are starting to think about where their vaccine certificates might take them on their summer vacations. The U.S., France and Germany are even offering shots to youngsters, who are at very low risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Less privileged countries had warned as far back as last year of this impending vaccine inequality, fearful that rich nations would hoard doses.

In an interview, Nkengasong called on the leaders of wealthy nations meeting this week at the G-7 summit to distribute vaccines they have held in excess so as to fall on the right side of history.

The Biden administration made its first major move to ease the crisis last week, announcing it would share an initial batch of 25 million spare doses with desperate countries in South and Central America, Asia and Africa.

U.S. has also planned to buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine that will be donated through the U.N.-backed COVAX program to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year.

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