#Covid-19 vaccine

Fifteen African countries, nearly a third of the continent’s 54 nations, have fully vaccinated 10 percent of their people against Covid-19.

The global goal of fully vaccinating 10 percent of every country’s population by 30 September was set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body. Almost 90% of high income-countries have met this target.

Seychelles and Mauritius have fully vaccinated over 60 percent of their populations, Morocco 48 percent and Tunisia, Comoros and Cape Verde over 20 percent . Most of the African countries that have met the goal have relatively small populations and 40 percent are small island developing states.

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All these countries have enjoyed sufficient supplies of vaccines, and many could access doses from separate sources in addition to those delivered through the COVAX Facility, the global platform to ensure equitable access to vaccines. Half of the 52 African countries that have received COVID-19 vaccines have fully vaccinated just 2 percent or less of their populations.

“The latest data shows modest gains but there is still a long way to go to reach the WHO target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of the population by the end of the year. Shipments are increasing but opaque delivery plans are still the number one nuisance that hold Africa back,” said Dr Richard Mihigo, Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme Coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.

Nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, had reached the 10 percent goal at the beginning of September and another six managed to sprint ahead to reach the target this month due to rising vaccine deliveries.

Twenty-three million COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Africa in September, a ten-fold increase from June. Yet just 60 million Africans have been fully vaccinated so far and 2 percent of the more than 6 billion vaccines given globally have been administered on the continent.

COVAX is working with donors to identify the countries that can currently absorb large volumes of vaccines and send them their way and plans to strengthen its support for countries that do not have other sources of vaccines.

WHO has assisted 19 African countries in conducting intra-action reviews, which analyse their vaccination campaigns and offer recommendations to improve them. The reviews show that uncertainty around deliveries has been a major impediment for many countries.

By deploying a team of international experts, WHO is providing targeted support to a select group of countries to identify and resolve bottlenecks in their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, including working with local authorities and partners to identify and address the root causes of challenges to administering vaccines. WHO is also working to share crucial lessons and best practices among African countries to help them accelerate their vaccine rollouts.

COVID-19 case numbers in Africa dropped by 35 percent to just over 74 000 in the week to 26 September. Almost 1800 deaths were reported across 34 African countries in the same period. The Delta variant has been found in 39 African countries. The Alpha variant has been detected in 45 countries and the Beta in 40.

“Despite the declining case numbers we must all remain vigilant and continue to adhere to the proven public health and safety measures that we know save lives, such as wearing a mask, washing our hands regularly and physical distancing, especially while vaccination rates remain low,” said Dr Mihigo.

Dr Mihigo spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. He was joined by Dr Pamela Smith-Lawrence, Acting Director, Health Services, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Botswana, and Mrs Fortunate Bhembe, Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Eswatini.

Also on hand to answer questions were Dr Fiona Braka, Team Lead, Emergency Operations, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr Thierno Balde, Regional COVID-19 Deputy Incident Manager, WHO Regional Office for Africa.