The World Health Organization reports Africa will fail to reach the global target of vaccinating 10% of vulnerable populations against COVID-19 in every country by the end of September.
WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, blames the situation on what she says is the hoarding of life-saving vaccines by the world’s wealthier countries.
She notes African countries have received more than 143 million doses and inoculated 39 million people, or less than 3% percent of the continent’s population. This, she says, compares to more than 50% in the European Union and United States.
“Equally concerning is the continuing inequity in the distribution of doses. Africa accounts for just 2% of the over five billion doses given globally. This percentage, I’m afraid, has not shifted in months… If current trends hold, 42 of Africa’s 54 countries — nearly 80% — are set to miss the September target, I’m afraid.”
Africa’s third wave of the coronavirus peaked in July; however, WHO reports 24 of Africa’s 54 countries are still reporting high or fast-rising case numbers. The situation is particularly acute in west, central and east Africa.
The latest WHO figures put the number of coronavirus infections at nearly eight million, with more than 214,000 new cases reported this past week. Of the 196,000 Africans who have died from this infection, more than 5,500 lost their lives last week.
Moeti says the pandemic is still raging on the continent, noting every hour, 26 Africans die of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. She warns people must not let down their guard, as they remain at risk of becoming severely ill or dying if vaccination rates remain low.
“With concerns about variants and political pressures driving the introduction of booster shots and countries with high vaccination rates expanding their rollouts to reach to lower-risk groups, our hope for global vaccine equity is once again being challenged,” she said.
Moeti says she is encouraged the pace of vaccine shipments to Africa is picking up but adds dose-sharing arrangements must continue to be improved. She says international solidarity remains key to the global recovery from this pandemic.