Africa at risk from vaccine resistant COVID-19 Infections

AFRICA – New variants of the SARS-CoV-2 are rapidly spreading across continents and multiple variants are emerging in Africa, some deadlier, as the continent slips into a third wave.

Africa risks having a Covid-19 strain resistant to all the vaccines available as the virus continues mutating amid a slow vaccination drive.

According to the Africa CDC, new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 are rapidly spreading across continents and multiple variants are emerging in Africa, some deadlier, as the continent slips into a third wave.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned about the slowdown in vaccination, with 47 of Africa’s 54 countries at the risk of missing the September target of vaccinating 10 percent of their population, unless 225 million doses are made available.

Africa CDC Director Dr John Nkengasong said in his latest briefing on June 10, that 53 percent of African countries have the variant initially reported in the UK, 47 percent have the variant initially reported in South Africa, and 22 percent have the variant that originated in India.

With Africa accounting for about two percent of global Covid-19 vaccination, countries are staring at new waves of infections from the new variants.

The situation continues to get complicated as some countries have a mixture of all three variants. And this speaks to the need to adhere to public health prevention measures and scale up vaccination,” said Dr Nkengasong.

Data shows that 14 countries are now heading towards the third wave, and the COVID Delta variant is getting a hold on the continent.

We now know that the variants are extremely impactful to our program. They create in some scenarios less efficacy for the vaccines and secondly transmission can actually be enhanced by up to 40 percent with some of the variants,” Dr Nkengasong said.

Recently, researchers found that variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that were initially identified in South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1) appear to be spreading more quickly in some areas of France than the previously dominant UK variant B.1.1.7.

The team found that since the period between January and March 2021, when the transmission advantage of B.1.1.7 was larger than that of B.1351, that trend appears to have shifted in at least two French regions during April.

The B.1.351 and P.1 lineages showed a significant transmission advantage over B.1.1.7 in the regions between April 12th and May 7th.

Due to cross-border trade, South African variants (Beta) are thought to be present in the countries bordering the Cape: Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, etc. The British variant (Alpha) is also widely present in the region and a few cases of the Indian variant (Delta) have been detected in South Africa and Zambia.

In response to these new variants and the large number of infections being recorded in Africa, WHO through the Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has written to the White House requesting 30 million vaccine doses from US for southern Africa.

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