Only seven African countries, mostly small, are likely to meet the World Health Organization’s target that every country in the world can immunize 10% of its population against the coronavirus by September, said Thursday. the agency. This is a dire prospect for a continent where vaccine supplies are rapidly depleting, and governments fight resurgence of infections.
The world health body said vaccination coverage remained at around 2% continent-wide – and around 1% in sub-Saharan Africa – even as some wealthy countries around the world administered injections to the majority of their population. To meet the 10 percent target for each country on the continent, Africa would need an additional 225 million doses, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. In total, nine of the ten African countries will miss this global vaccination target, the agency said.
The seven countries are Seychelles, Morocco, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Zimbabwe. Six other countries: Tunisia; Ghana; Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland; Lesotho; Rwanda; and Kenya – 3 could meet the target if they receive sufficient supplies to keep up with their current vaccination rate, the WHO said.
“It will really require a massive effort,” admitted Dr Moeti, saying that “without a significant increase” in the availability of vaccines, “many African lives are at stake.”
The announcement came as Africa is expected to exceed five million cases of the virus, with Covid having killed 133,000 so far. While testing is often limited in countries on the continent, known cases have also increased, with 94,145 new cases reported last week – a 26% increase from the previous week – according to the African Centers for Control and Control. disease prevention.
Countries like Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia have reported an increase in cases, while some, like Uganda, reintroduced lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus. The Africa CDC also said deaths on the continent increased by 2% over the past week, and many other countries reported having detected the variants first reported in South Africa, Britain and in India.
And just as cases and deaths increase, many African countries have reported that they have used up most of the vaccines they received through Covax, a global immunization initiative. WHO. said 14 African countries have used between 80 and 100 percent of their doses.
Yet only 35.9 million doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered on the continent, the Africa CDC, with the majority administered in a few countries, including Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa. South, and in the region of Western Sahara. Tanzania, Eritrea and Burundi have yet to give a single blow while Togo and Chad only started administering jabs last week.
While some countries faced shortages, others did not deploy campaigns quickly. Twenty countries have used less than half of their doses, the WHO has estimated, while 12 countries have more than 10 percent of their doses about to expire.
But on Thursday, WHO and Africa CDC welcomed the news that President Biden has decided donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to the poorest nations, including those of the African Union. Countries like France and companies like Mastercard have also pledged to fund, deliver or help produce Covid vaccines on the continent.
“This is a monumental step forward,” Dr Moeti said of the US effort, which Mr Biden will announce in Europe on Thursday, according to the White House. “We are now seeing rich nations begin to turn their promises into action. The hope for a shared future without Covid-19 is starting to shine a little brighter. “
Vaccines are expected to start shipping in August, with 200 million doses due to be delivered by the end of this year, while the other 300 million will be delivered early next year, according to a White House fact sheet.
Africa CDC director Dr John Nkengasong welcomed the decision but said he was unsure when or how many vaccines Africa would receive. But he urged member states to prepare storage facilities for the Pfizer vaccine and prioritize big cities once those doses arrive. He gave the example of Rwanda which, according to him, had received over 102,000 doses of Pfizer and quickly deployed it.
“We have to use a combination of vaccines to win this battle against Covid-19,” Nkengasong said at a press conference on Thursday. “We are at war and you go to war with what you have, not what you need.”