Send to a friend
[CAPE TOWN] Africa needs 225 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine in order to meet the global goal of vaccinating ten per cent of people in every country by September 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
The figures, released by the WHO last week (10 June) at the World Health Assembly, come as the continent’s total COVID-19 cases hit about five million.
“With vaccine stocks and shipments drying up, the continent’s vaccine coverage for the first dose remains stuck at around two per cent and about one per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, while some wealthy nations race past the 60 per cent mark,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
“We know that vaccines break the link between cases and deaths, and we need deliveries today not tomorrow.”
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Office for Africa
With cases growing in African countries, including confirmed waves in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia, Moeti said reaching global vaccination goals will require considerable effort.
“If current vaccination and rollout of supply remains constant, our concern is that only seven African countries are likely to reach the [ten per cent] target by September,” she added.
Moeti believes that recent vaccine donation announcements are encouraging. In April, French President Emmanuel Macron revealed a commitment to sharing 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine with COVAX, and US President Joe Biden announced on 10 June plans to donate 500 million doses of vaccine to low- and middle-income countries, the largest ever vaccine donation by a single country.
“We are very encouraged by wealthy countries now coming forward to announce intentions and starting to take action to share vaccines immediately with African countries,” added Moeti. “We need more of this.”
In addition to procuring vaccine doses, African countries must step up distribution efforts, says Moeti, including expanding vaccine campaigns to rural areas, providing funding for delivery and staffing, and working to improve vaccine confidence.
“We know that vaccines break the link between cases and deaths, and we need deliveries today not tomorrow,” she added.
Linda-Gail Bekker, director of the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation in South Africa, told SciDev.Net that vaccine coverage is critical in Africa, where high burden of diseases strain health systems and increase the likelihood of new COVID-19 variants.
“We know that if COVID-19 is allowed to go unchecked, particularly where there may be immune suppression due to HIV, TB or other co-infection and co-morbidities, then we may see persistent infection in individuals with the development of new variant viruses,” she explained.
While she supports global sharing of vaccines, she is critical of announcements such as Africa is moving closer to vaccination goals. “In South Africa, for example, we are now in a third wave and have only seen setback after setback, rather than any progress forward in getting vaccines to countries on the continent,” she explained.
Bekker added that the time has come to address Africa’s potential in overcoming vaccine manufacturing shortfalls.“We need to increase manufacturing capability and think innovatively about where and how manufacturing can be extended, and whether Africa could contribute to this in some way,” she added.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.