WHO says fewer than 10% of African countries to hit key Covid-19 vaccination goal
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Cape Town – Just five African countries, fewer than 10 percent of Africa’s 54 nations, are projected to hit the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of their people, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said on Thursday.
WHO says unless efforts to accelerate the pace take off, Africa will be left behind in the global Covid-19 vaccination campaign, this comes as the region grapples to meet rising demand for essential vaccination commodities, such as syringes, it said in a statement.
Three African countries, Seychelles, Mauritius and Morocco, have already met the goal that was set in May by the World Health Assembly.
According to WHO, at the current pace just two more countries, Tunisia and Cabo Verde, will also hit the target.
In addition, limited access to crucial commodities such as syringes may slow the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa.
UNICEF has reported an imminent shortfall of up to 2.2 billion auto-disable syringes for Covid-19 vaccination and routine immunisation in 2022.
This includes 0.3ml auto-disposable syringes for Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccinations.
The global health authority says there is no global stockpile of the 0.3ml specialised syringes, which differ from the 0.5ml syringes used for other types of Covid-19 vaccines and routine vaccination. The market for 0.3ml auto-disable syringes is tight and extremely competitive. As such, these are in short supply and will remain so through at least the first quarter of next year, WHO says.
Already some African countries, such as Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa, have experienced delays in receiving syringes.
“The looming threat of a vaccine commodities crisis hangs over the continent. Early next year Covid-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyse progress.
“Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast. Countless African lives depend on it,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
Furthermore, the Covax facility is working to address this threat by securing deals with syringe manufacturers, and through better planning, to avoid deliveries outpacing the supply of syringes.
In October to date, about 50 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have arrived in Africa, which is almost double what was shipped in September. Covax, the global platform to ensure equitable access to vaccines, has delivered almost 90 percent of the vaccines deployed this month and has accelerated its shipments since July.
However, at the current pace, Africa still faces a 275 million shortfall of Covid-19 vaccines against the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of its people.
Africa has fully vaccinated 77 million people, just 6 percent of its population. In comparison, more than 70 percent of high-income countries have already vaccinated more than 40 percent of their people.
The WHO says countries still need to improve their readiness for Covid-19 vaccine rollouts. Forty-two percent of countries in the African region have not yet completed district level plans for their campaigns, while nearly 40 percent have not yet undertaken intra-action reviews which are key to refining and improving their vaccination campaigns.
“In Africa, planning must become much more granular. This way we can spot challenges before they arise and nip any problems in the bud. The WHO is supporting African countries in developing, improving and implementing their National Vaccine Deployment Plans and continually refining their Covid-19 vaccine rollouts as they proceed,” Moeti said.
The WHO is conducting emergency support missions to five African countries to help support, speed up and improve their Covid-19 vaccine rollouts, with plans for missions to another 10 countries this year.
The WHO experts are working with local authorities and partners on the ground to analyse the reasons for any delays, and how best to address them. In South Sudan, authorities aim to ensure that the WHO mission will help the country meet its goal of achieving a tenfold increase in the daily Covid-19 vaccination rate, from 2,000 to 2,5000.
Nearly 8.5 million Covid-19 cases and more than 217,000 deaths have been recorded in Africa.
African News Agency (ANA)