2021-09-30 18:32:40 Most African Nations Fall Short of W.H.O. Target for Covid Vaccination

Most African Nations Fall Short of W.H.O. Target for Covid Vaccination

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Only nine African countries have met a target of vaccinating 10% of their populations against Covid-19 by the end of September, according to the World Health Organization on Thursday, demonstrating how far the continent lags behind global vaccination rates.

The World Health Organization established the target this year as part of a push to have every country vaccinate at least 40% of its population by the end of 2021.

Dr. Richard Mihigo, the World Health Organization’s program coordinator for vaccine development in Africa, told a news conference on Thursday that only 4% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, and that there is “still a long way to go” to meet the end-of-year target.

Several of the nine countries that met the target have small populations, such as the island nations of Mauritius and Seychelles, which have fully vaccinated two-thirds of their residents.

Although the infection rate in Africa has generally remained lower than on other continents, experts believe that the low levels of immunization increase the risk that new variants will emerge as the virus continues to circulate.

The World Health Organization has reliable data for 52 of Africa’s 54 countries; Eritrea has provided no statistics, and Tanzania has provided only partial figures. Approximately half of the countries have vaccinated less than 3% of their residents, including many of the most populous, such as Nigeria, Congo, Kenya, and Uganda.

Vaccine shortages have plagued the continent, exacerbated by a shortfall in deliveries from the global vaccine-sharing initiative, Covax. Wealthy countries that pledged to support the initiative have only provided a fraction of the doses promised.

So far, the majority of Covid-19 shots have been administered in high-income and upper-middle-income countries around the world. The same pattern has been observed in Africa, where more advanced economies, such as South Africa, Morocco, and Botswana, have outpaced their poorer neighbors.

“In Africa, the major issue has been supply rather than demand,” Dr. Mihigo explained, adding that vaccine hesitancy has been a problem “here and there.” The World Health Organization stated that it is working to identify bottlenecks in countries where limited technical capacity to deliver vaccines has hampered immunization campaigns.

African countries that have had the most success obtained doses through a variety of channels, including Covax and the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust, as well as direct purchases from manufacturers and donations.

A July donation of more than 300,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses from the US government was a “game-changer” for Eswatini, a landlocked monarchy in southern Africa, according to Fortunate Bhembe, an official with the country’s ministry of health.

In addition, the country has purchased approximately 400,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They, along with more than 100,000 doses expected from Covax later this year, are intended for use in children aged 12 to 16, according to Ms. Bhembe.

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Most African Nations Fall Short of W.H.O. Target for Covid Vaccination