Increased supply of COVID-19 vaccines paints Africa’s situation in new light

AFRICA – The World Health Organization’s Africa director has said the continent of 1.3 billion people is entering an encouraging phase after a bleak June as supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase.

However, Dr. Moeti noted that just 10% of the doses needed to vaccinate 30% of Africa’s population by the end of 2021 have arrived. Some 82 million doses have gotten to Africa so far, while some 820 million are needed.

The African continent is far behind on vaccinations as richer countries keep doses for their citizens. Currently, the year-end vaccination target is just half the 60% population coverage that African health officials seek to achieve so-called herd immunity.

Less than 2% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the more infectious delta variant is driving a deadly resurgence of cases.

The WHO says nearly 4 million vaccine doses arrived in Africa last week from the global COVAX facility, compared to less than 250,000 in all of June.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine deliveries to Africa but it must not be snuffed out again,” Moeti said.

She warned that countries’ decisions to provide a third, “booster” dose could influence decisions on sending vaccines to Africa.

Africa Centers for Disease Control director John Nkengasong told reporters that African countries might need more doses than previously thought as the delta variant spreads and younger people get COVID-19.

The response to the pandemic has shown the speed of mobilization and vaccine science at its best.

Faced with an unprecedented challenge, governments, international organizations, the health care industry and global health experts have come together on a scale never seen before.

The result has been the development of multiple vaccines in record time and more than three billion doses administered worldwide. But the coronavirus has also laid bare entrenched inequities that continue to perpetuate poor health and wellbeing in already vulnerable communities.

Billions of dollars have been pledged to the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment, a global initiative to ensure vaccine supply reaches low- and middle-income countries.

In addition, more and more countries are starting to donate from their own supply and direct them to where they are most needed.

For Africa, this is translating into vaccines on the ground and protecting the lives of millions of people. It is a remarkable display of global collaboration.

Even so, a looming challenge has been producing enough vaccines to meet the global demand. COVAX is expecting a strong increase in vaccine availability later this year as supplies from new manufacturers become available.

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