Jun 11 , 2021

At 32 million doses, Africa accounts for under one percent of the over 2.1 billion doses administered globally

As COVID-19 cases in Africa rise for the third week running and vaccines are increasingly scarce, 47 of Africa’s 54 countries, including Ethiopia, are set to miss the September target of vaccinating 10pc of their people unless the continent receives 225 million additional doses, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As Africa nears five million COVID-19 cases, numbers are rising week-on-week and increased by nearly a fifth to over 88 000 in the week ending on June 6, 2021. The pandemic is trending upwards in 10 African countries, with four nations recording a spike in new cases of over 30pc in the past seven days, compared with the previous week. Over 70pc of all new cases were reported in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia and over half were recorded in nine southern African countries.

“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,” said Matshidiso Moeti (MD), the WHO regional director for Africa.

At 32 million doses, Africa accounts for less than one percent of the over 2.1 billion doses administered globally. Just two percent of the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received one dose and only 9.4 million Africans are fully vaccinated.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Health is also facing hiccups in its plan to have a fifth of the population vaccinated by the end of the year. So far, just under two million doses have been administered to priority groups including health workers and the elderly. The country received 2.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility in early March and then an additional 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China later that month.

The Ministry was also expecting to receive 5.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab from COVAX in April but the shipment never materialised.

So far, the majority of people who have received their first dose have yet to receive the second and there will likely not be enough to go around as appointments set by health professionals approach. Still, there might be some hope as developed countries are pledging support.

The United States recently announcement that it will purchase and donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries in Africa and elsewhere. This comes as other countries such as France are also making tangible deliveries via COVAX.

“The tide is starting to turn. We’re now seeing wealthy nations beginning to turn promises into action,” said Matshidiso Moeti.

While more vaccines are vital, some African countries must ramp up actions to swiftly roll out the vaccines they have. While 14 African countries have used from 80pc to all of the doses they received through the COVAX Facility, 20 countries have used less than half. Twelve countries have more than 10pc 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,” said the WHO regional director. “Countries that are lagging behind in their rollout need to step up vaccination efforts.”

PUBLISHED ON Jun 11,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1102]

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