Less than a third of African countries have achieved the global goal of vaccinating 10% of their populations against covid-19 by the end of September, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This indicates the challenge the continent is facing in procuring vaccines amidst their uneven distribution for the world’s poorer countries.
Fifteen countries, including South Africa, Mauritius, Morocco, and Rwanda, have met the target, said Richard Mihigo, immunization and vaccine development program coordinator at the WHO’s regional office for Africa, at a press briefing on Thursday.
The World Health Assembly, which is the WHO’s decision-making body, set the 10% goal in May. Almost 90% of high income-countries have met this target.
Many of the countries that have vaccinated at least 10% of their populations are upper-middle and high-income economies that have procured vaccines directly from manufacturers, in addition to using the global vaccine distribution program Covax, which is co-led by the WHO. Many of them also have relatively low populations compared to other African countries.
Despite several missteps in controlling the spread of covid-19, South Africa—the African country with the highest number of infections—has been a big advocate against vaccine apartheid, vaccine hesitancy, and agitating for waiving of patents for vaccine manufacturing, given their high case load and number of variants.
The countries on the list have vaccinated have access to a steady vaccine supply and most of them have had the resources to the vaccines themselves or strike early bilateral deals, Mihigo said.
“In the face of great adversity, these countries have shown commitment and the resilience we need,” Mihigo said.
African countries, heavily reliant on receiving covid-19 vaccines from Covax have been left scrambling as the program underdelivers. Covax was initially set to deliver 700 million covid-19 doses to the continent this year, but it lowered the figure to 520 million and it more recently said it would miss this last target because of a shortage of 100 million doses.
“This result shows some sign of progress, yet there’s still a long way to go,” Mihigo said about African countries reaching the 10% goal.
Covax’s distribution methodology is also under scrutiny, as it has some rich countries that already have many vaccine doses being eligible for doses at the same time as poorer countries that have no doses.
Other vaccine sources for African countries are bilateral agreements and the Africa Centres for Disease Control’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, which procures vaccines for all African Union member states.
Some African countries such as South Africa and Egypt are involved in the manufacturing process for covid-19 vaccines.
Africa has so far received more than 200 million vaccine doses and administered about 71% of these, Mihigo said. The continent has recorded 8 million covid-19 cases and 200,000 deaths from the disease.
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