Africa is slated to receive 25% fewer COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year than it was expecting, the director of the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa said Thursday.
The African continent, already struggling with a thin supply of vaccines while many wealthy nations initiate booster shot programs, has fully vaccinated just more than 3% of its residents.
The global vaccine sharing initiative COVAX announced Wednesday that it expects to receive about 1.4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year, as opposed to the projection of 1.9 billion doses it received in June.
"Yesterday, #COVAX shipment forecasts for the rest of the year were revised downwards by 25%, in part because of the prioritization of bilateral deals over international solidarity." - Dr @MoetiTshidi— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) September 9, 2021
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa director, said during a press conference Thursday that the United States has thrown away three times as many vaccine doses as COVAX has delivered to African countries since March.
COVAX delivered more than 5 million doses to Africa in the past week, but the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention said that as of Sept. 1, U.S. pharmacies have thrown away more than 15 million doses since March.
The United States and other wealthy nations have been under increasing pressure to donate their surplus of COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries as the pandemic wreaks havoc across the globe with the emergence of new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday implored wealthy nations to forgo COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for the rest of the year to ensure that poorer countries have more access to the vaccine. Tedros had previously asked rich countries not to provide boosters until September.
Also on Thursday, Turkey’s health minister said the country is soon likely to approve a locally made vaccine, which began late-stage trials in June, for emergency use. Ankara expects it will start mass producing “Turkovac” this October.
Italy sent teams to the island of Lampedusa to inoculate newly arrived immigrants. Lampedusa is one of the main arrival points for African migrants from Libya and Tunisia. Roughly 40,000 migrants from North Africa have arrived in Italy so far this year, twice as many as in 2020.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved a measure Thursday that would mandate vaccinations against COVID-19 for all students 12 years and older. Students would be required to receive their first dose by Nov. 21 followed by a second dose by Dec. 19 in order to be fully vaccinated by the next semester.
The measure also requires students participating in in-person extracurricular activities to receive both shots by the end of October. The district will allow medical or religious exemptions.
Los Angeles is the largest school district in the U.S. to impose a mandatory vaccination policy. The district is the nation’s second-largest, with just more than 600,000 students.
Separately, Japan announced Thursday that it would extend its current coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and 18 other areas until Sept. 30. Two prefectures will be shifted from full emergency status to more targeted restrictions.
The state of emergency was first imposed for the city and a handful of other prefectures just weeks before the start of the Tokyo Olympics as Japan struggled under the surge of new infections sparked by the delta variant and a sluggish vaccination campaign.
Japan currently has more than 1.6 million confirmed infections, including 16,600 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, with nearly 50% of its population fully vaccinated.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.