8 in 10 African countries to miss crucial Sept. COVID-19 vaccination goal – WHO official

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By Grace Audu (HEALTH CORRESPONDENT)

According to the World Health Organization, Africa is on track to fail the urgent global goal of vaccinating the most susceptible 10% of each country’s population against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) by the end of September.

According to a statement made by WHO Regional Office for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, on Thursday, 42 of Africa’s 54 countries (almost 80%) are on track to fail the target due to the current pace of vaccine supply and immunizations.

The World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-making organization, established a global objective in May, and nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco, and Tunisia, have already met it.

At the current rate, three more African countries will be added to the continent.

At the current pace, three more African countries are set to meet the target, while two more could meet it if they speed up vaccinations.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said, “With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally.

“Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and 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.”

Almost 21 million COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Africa via the COVAX Facility in August, an amount equal to the previous four months combined.

With more vaccines expected from COVAX and the African Union by the end of September, Africa would have enough doses to meet the 10 per cent target,  Moeti said.

While many African countries have sped up COVID-19 vaccinations as vaccine shipments ramped up in August, 26 countries have used less than half of their COVID-19 vaccines.

More than 143 million doses have been received in Africa in total, but only 39 million people – around just 3 per cent of Africa’s population – are fully vaccinated.

In comparison, 52 per cent of people are fully vaccinated in the United States and 57 per cent in the European Union.

“The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just 2 per cent of the more than 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,” Moeti said.

According to WHO, COVID-19 cases are declining slightly in Africa but remain stubbornly high.

A rising number of new cases in Central, East and West Africa pushed case numbers up to nearly 215,000 in the week ending on Aug. 29, and 25 countries are reporting high or fast-rising case numbers, with over 5,500 deaths.

“Although Africa’s third wave peaked in July, the decline in new cases is at a glacial pace – far slower than in previous waves.

“The pandemic is still raging in Africa and we must not let our guard down,” said Moeti.

The highly transmissible Delta variant has been found in 31 African countries.

The Alpha variant has been detected in 44 countries, and the Beta variant in 39.

The C.1.2 variant has been identified in 114 cases in South Africa.

Single cases have been found in four other African countries, and very low case numbers have been reported internationally.

While first reported to WHO in July, the prevalence of this new variant remains very low.

“We are closely monitoring the spread and evolution of all reported variants of COVID-19, including C.1.2.

“Mask wearing, physical distancing, and regular hand washing will help keep you safe from all variants,” Moeti said.

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