2021-09-16 17:59:29 African Public Health Experts Call on U.N. to Speed Vaccine Delivery

African Public Health Experts Call on U.N. to Speed Vaccine Delivery

As world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, African public health experts urged action to expedite the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to their continent, where only 3.6 percent of people have been fully immunized against the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Due to shortages in supplies from Covax, the global vaccine-sharing initiative, African countries now have only half the doses required to meet the global target of fully vaccinating 40% of their populations by the end of 2021. Inequities in vaccine distribution remain stark: Africa is home to approximately 17% of the world’s population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been administered in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

“As the United Nations General Assembly convenes next week, I urge African leaders to urge them to ensure equitable access to vaccines,” said Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, chairwoman of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, during an online news conference on Thursday. “Ask the wealthy countries: Where are Africa’s vaccines?” Where are the vaccines for the world’s low- and middle-income countries?”

Wealthy countries around the world have only provided a fraction of the doses promised to Covax. This shortfall is one of the primary reasons Covax cut its forecast for the number of doses available this year last week. According to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, 80 percent of vaccines have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries around the world. In low-income countries, only 0.4 percent of doses have been administered.

Another reason, according to experts, is that India, which has the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, has halted coronavirus vaccine exports while it attempts to inoculate more of its own people.

“Export bans and vaccine hoarding continue to suffocate the lifeline of vaccine supplies to Africa,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s director for Africa, at the news conference. “As long as wealthy countries keep Covax and the African Union off the market, Africa will fall short of its vaccination targets.

Dr. Moeti reiterated the World Health Organization’s request that countries delay administering booster shots to healthy people until the end of the year in order to supply more vaccine doses to countries that are still struggling to administer initial doses. Nonetheless, a growing number of countries are moving forward with plans for booster programs.

Dr. Moeti went on to say that African nations had significantly increased their delivery capacity, administering 13 million doses last week, more than tripling previous weeks’ figures. Even so, she estimates that the countries will not reach the 40% vaccination target until next March if they continue at their current pace.

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African Public Health Experts Call on U.N. to Speed Vaccine Delivery