AFRICA – Africa is likely to miss the urgent global goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10 percent of each country’s population against COVID-19 by the end of September, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO Regional Office for Africa in a statement released on Thursday said that 42 of Africa’s 54 nations, nearly 80 percent, are set to miss the target with the current pace of vaccine deliveries and vaccinations.
Nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, have already reached the global target set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body.
At the current pace, three more African countries are set to meet the target, while two more could meet it if they speed up vaccinations.
“With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally. Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and we urgently need more vaccines, but as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from COVID-19,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Almost 21 million COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Africa via the COVAX Facility in August, an amount equal to the previous four months combined. With more vaccines expected from COVAX and the African Union by the end of September, Africa would have enough doses to meet the 10 percent target, said Moeti.
While many African countries have sped up COVID-19 vaccinations as vaccine shipments ramped up in August, 26 countries have used less than half of their COVID-19 vaccines.
Over 143 million doses have been received in Africa in total, but only 39 million people, around just 3 percent of Africa’s population, are fully vaccinated. In comparison, 52 percent of people are fully vaccinated in the United States and 57 percent in the European Union.
“The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just 2 percent of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa. Yet recent rises in vaccine shipments and commitments shows that a fairer, more just global distribution of vaccines looks possible,” said Moeti.
According to WHO, COVID-19 cases are declining slightly in Africa but remain stubbornly high. A rising number of new cases in Central, East and West Africa pushed case numbers up to nearly 215,000 in the week ending on August 29, and 25 countries are reporting high or fast-rising case numbers, with over 5,500 deaths.
“Although Africa’s third wave peaked in July, the decline in new cases is at a glacial pace – far slower than in previous waves. The pandemic is still raging in Africa and we must not let our guard down,” said Moeti.
The highly transmissible Delta variant has been found in 31 African countries. The Alpha variant has been detected in 44 countries and the Beta variant in 39.