Almost all African countries are likely to miss the September Covid-19 vaccines target set to ensure that at least 10 per cent of the population was inoculated.
Reports indicate that 47 of Africa’s 54 countries, nearly 90 per cent, are set to miss the September target unless the continent received 225 million more doses to bridge the current shortage.
As Covid-19 cases in Africa rise for the third week running and the new global targets announced, at the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body, only seven African countries are set to meet them.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO), Regional Director for Africa, said as Africa closes in on 5 million cases and a third wave in Africa looms, many of the most vulnerable people remain dangerously exposed to the pandemic.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
“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 Dr Moeti.
Speaking during a virtual press conference, The Regional Director noted that numbers in Africa have been rising week after week and increased by nearly 20 percent to over 88,000 in the week ending on June 6.
The pandemic, according to WHO, is trending upwards in 10 African countries, with four nations recording a spike in new cases of over 30 percent in the past seven days, compared with the previous week.
72 percent of all new cases were reported in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia and over half were recorded in nine southern African countries.
At 32 million doses, Africa accounts for under one (1) percent of the over 2.1 billion doses administered globally and just two (2) percent of the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received one dose and only 9.4 million Africans are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Moeti, however, noted that the tide is starting to turn as wealthy nations are beginning to turn promises into action giving an example of United States President Joe Biden’s planned announcement, that the US will purchase and donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union and this she said is an important step forward.
“This comes as we see other countries such as France making tangible deliveries via the COVAX Facility but while more vaccines are vital, some African countries must ramp up actions to swiftly roll out the vaccines they have,” Dr. Moeti said.
While 14 African countries have used from 80 percent to 100 percent of the doses they received through the COVAX Facility, 20 countries have used less than 50 percent of the doses received, and twelve countries have more than 10 percent 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, countries that are lagging behind in their rollout need to step up vaccination efforts,” said Dr Moeti.
WHO recommends spreading vaccinations beyond large cities into rural areas, prioritizing vaccines that are close to expiring, tackling logistical and financial hurdles and working to boost public demand for vaccines.
Attitudes towards vaccines and acceptance of vaccination varies across countries and communities and according to the Risk Communication Community Engagement Collective, a joint WHO, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) initiative, confidence in vaccines in Africa is diverse.
It ranges from just 38 percent in Cameroon to 86 percent in Guinea. But on average, West and Central Africa has the lowest vaccine confidence at around 60 percent.
To combat mis-and-disinformation around vaccines, WHO and partners set up the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA), which leverages the reach and insights from a unique network of 14 organizations and pools resources to combat misinformation.
Viral Facts Africa, the public face of the alliance, has created over 150 videos and social media posts to counter misinformation this year and they have been disseminated on almost 60 social media channels across the region and gained more than 100 million views.