With Africabound COVID- 19 vaccine doses from the Serum Institute in India delayed for the foreseeable future, slow vaccine rollouts and new variants making inroads, the risk of a new wave of infections in Africa remains high, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, delays and shortages of vaccine supplies are driving African countries to slip further behind the rest of the world in the COVID-19 vaccine roll out and the continent now accounts for only one per cent of the vaccines administered worldwide, down from two per cent a few weeks ago.
Moeti, who spoke during a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group, was joined by Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director, Country Programmes, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Also on hand to answer questions were Dr Richard Mihigo, Immunization and Vaccine Development Programme Coordinator, WHO Regional Office for Africa and Dr Ngoy Nsenga, WHO COVID-19 Incident Manager.
Speaking at the event, Moeti said COVID-19 vaccine rollouts have been exemplary in some African countries, yet around half or 19 million of the 37 million COVID-19 vaccine doses received in Africa have been administered so far, according to reports from African countries. This is because the initial deliveries through COVAX to 41 African nations have been staggered since early March, yet nine countries have administered less than a quarter of the doses they have and 15 countries have given less than half. Eight countries have given all of their COVAX doses.
Moeti said: “While we call for vaccine equity, Africa must also knuckle down and make the best of what we have. We must get all the doses we have into people’s arms. “It’s a race against time and the virus. Given the limited supply we recommend that countries prioritise giving the first dose to as many high-risk people as possible in the shortest amount of time.” Modelling suggests that vaccinating more people in the highest priority population groups with one dose as opposed to vaccinating half that number with two doses would substantially reduce death rates.