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COVID-19: Africa Could Miss Goal to Vaccinate Millions by Month’s end

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) new data which was released yesterday revealed that Africa could miss the goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10 percent of its population against COVID-19 before this September ends.

WHO Regional Director for Africa. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti pointed out that vaccine hoarding has held Africa back as she emphasised the need for African nations to join hands and foster solutions

“Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back we urgently need more vaccines, but as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from COVID-19.”

“With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally,” said Dr. Moeti.

According to WHO new data, nearly 80 percent of countries on the continent, or 42 out of 54, are off track on meeting the global target set in May by the World Health Assembly, if the current rate of vaccine deliveries and inoculations continues.

The Assembly, which is the world’s highest health policy-setting body, challenged all Governments to vaccinate 10 per cent of their population by the end of September.

Pertaining to the deadline fast approaching, WHO said, “So far, nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco, and Tunisia, have met the goal, and three more could be joining them at the current pace. Two additional countries could meet the target if vaccinations are sped up.”

According to a UN News report, Africa received nearly 21 million vaccine doses in August through the COVAX solidarity initiative, an amount equal to the previous four months combined.

Articulating on fairer distribution possible, new data by WHO has it that more vaccines are expected from COVAX and the African Union by the end of the current month, which could see enough doses delivered to meet the 10 percent target.

Even though countries ramped up vaccinations following the increased shipments last month, 26 nations have used less than half their doses.

Overall, Africa has received 143 million vaccines, and 39 million people, or roughly three percent of the continent’s population, are fully inoculated. In comparison, the figure is 52 percent in the United States and 57 percent in the European Union.

“The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just two percent of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa. Yet recent rises in vaccine shipments and commitments shows that a fairer, more just global distribution of vaccines looks possible,” said Dr. Moeti.

New campaign strategy
WHO urged countries to continue to address operational gaps and continually improve, adapt and refine their vaccination campaigns.

Thirty governments have submitted data on operational readiness which reveals that one in two has not conducted reviews critical to assessing and fine-tuning progress

Furthermore, one in three has not updated their National Vaccine Deployment Plans, which instruct all COVID-19 vaccination actions in each country.

WHO is providing countries with tailored policy advice and technical guidance and support to improve logistics, planning, and monitoring.

Meanwhile, the agency reported that COVID-19 cases are declining slightly in Africa but remain “stubbornly high”.

An increase in new cases in Central, East, and West Africa, pushed numbers up to nearly 215,000 for the week ending 29 August.

Twenty-five countries, over 45 percent, are reporting high or fast-rising caseloads, while over 5,500 deaths were reported during the same period.

Dr. Moeti underscored the need to remain vigilant.

“Although Africa’s third wave peaked in July, the decline in new cases is at a glacial pace – far slower than in previous waves,” she said. “The pandemic is still raging in Africa and we must not let our guard down. Every hour, 26 Africans die of COVID-19.”

WHO said it was closely monitoring the spread and evolution of COVID-19 variants in Africa.

Source – UN News

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende