Less than 10% of African countries will meet the end-year target of fully vaccinating 40% of their populations against covid-19, compared to the 70% of high-income countries that have already achieved this goal. This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
This points to the continent’s struggle to secure vaccine doses and meet rising demand for essential vaccination commodities such as syringes.
Three African countries—the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco—have already met the goal, the WHO says. It adds that it projects that only two more—Tunisia and Cape Verde—will hit the target at the current vaccination pace.
The goal was set in May by the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body. It follows a previous goal of countries vaccinating 10% of their populations against covid-19 by the end of September, a target that less than a third of African countries met.
Factors that have contributed to Africa’s low vaccination
The setbacks are a result of a combination of factors. Many African countries rely on the global vaccine distribution program Covax for covid-19 vaccines, but it has been failing to meet its delivery targets. A newer complication is the increasing demand for vaccine syringes as vaccine deliveries speed up, a factor that may hamper the already delayed covid-19 vaccination drive. Already countries including Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa, have experienced delays in receiving syringes.
“The looming threat of a vaccine commodities crisis hangs over the continent,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa. “Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast. Countless African lives depend on it.”
Africa’s vaccine deliveries are speeding up
Vaccine deliveries to the continent are on the rise. Since October, the continent has received around 50 million doses, which is almost double what was shipped in September. But the WHO say Africa still faces a 275 million shortfall of vaccines against the year-end target and wouldn’t be able to meet the 40% target at the current speed.
It observes that African countries still need to improve their readiness for vaccine rollouts since, it says, 42% have not yet completed district level plans for their campaigns, while nearly 40% have not yet undertaken intra-action reviews, which are key to refining and improving their vaccination campaigns. An intra-action review is a country-led process that assesses past response actions to find gaps and optimize future responses.
“In Africa, planning must become much more granular,” said Moeti.
Africa’s covid-19 numbers
The five countries that are expected to have met the 40% target are high-income and lower-middle income countries that have been able to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers, besides getting them from Covax.
Africa has received more than 200 million vaccine doses and fully vaccinated 77 million people, which is six percent of its population.
The continent has recorded 8.5 million covid-19 cases and 219,000 deaths from the disease.
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