Africa continues to lag behind in providing vaccination for its people even as the global rollout of Covid-19 jabs continues. Less than 2 per cent of the 690m vaccine doses so far administered globally have been in Africa. This means the continent is currently home to only one out of every 100 people vaccinated against Covid-19 on the planet.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti is sounding the alarm on the sluggish pace of vaccinations on the continent.
“Although progress is being made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line. Limited stocks and supply bottlenecks have are putting Covid-19 vaccines out of the reach of many people in this region,”Dr Moeti said while addressing virtual conference participants on April 7, 2021, said Dr Moeti.
Speaking at a virtual press conference facilitated by the APO Group, Dr Moeti lamented the slow pace of vaccinations on the continent, adding that the current import hitches are hampering access to the jab in Africa.
“Africa is already playing vaccination catchup, and the gap is widening. While we acknowledge the immense burden placed by the global demand for vaccines, inequity can only worsen scarcity,” said Dr Moeti.
The delays are not only affecting vaccine delivery to priority targets but expanding vaccinations to the rest of the population, some of whom have expressed eagerness to receive the doses.
In Kenya, a report by the African Voices research group indicates that 81 per cent of the country’s citizens are willing to take the vaccine once it is made available.
Kenya is among the top 10 countries in the race to vaccinate African populations, having vaccinated a total of 422,021 people so far.
The figure is however way below the projected 30 per cent of the East African population targeted in the vaccination drive that has been scheduled to run until 2023.
A total of 45 African countries have received vaccines with 43 of them having kicked off the vaccination drive. Nearly 13m doses of the 31.6m doses delivered so far have been administered.
The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that the pace of administration has not been uniform, with 93 percent of the doses given in 10 countries.
According to the WHO, the leading countries have managed to quickly vaccinate vulnerable sections of their populations.
“Vaccine rollout preparedness, including training of health workers, pre listing priority groups and coordination has helped some countries quickly reach a large proportion the targeted high-risk population groups such as health workers,” reads the WHO’s report on the vaccination status of African countries.
Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya Lead on Vaccine Stocks
The 10 countries that have vaccinated the most people have used at least 65 per cent of their supplies. Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya are leading in terms of vaccine stocks.
Although the arrival of vaccines in the African countries has been one major victory, other challenges still stand in the way of the people getting the much-needed shots.
“Once delivered, vaccine rollout in some countries has been delayed by operational and financial hurdles or logistical difficulties such as reaching remote locations,” says the WHO.
To boost Africa’s efforts to fight the pandemic, the UN health agency set up a target to start vaccinating health workers and other priority groups in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021.
Additionally, WHO is now supporting countries to tackle the challenges by reinforcing planning and coordination of vaccination drives.
The health body is also advocating for the allocation of more financial resources to the campaign as well as setting up effective communication strategies to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.
A total of 16.6m vaccine doses have been delivered to Africa courtesy of the COVAX facility. Most of the doses were from Astra Zeneca.
Astra Zeneca’s vaccine still remains shrouded in controversy, with a number of countries restricting its use for certain age groups including Germany, Phillipines and Australia.
This follows the European Medicines Agency’s announcement that unusual blood clots should be listed as very rare side effects of the vaccine.
WHO’s Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety this week concluded that the link between the Astra Zeneca vaccine and the occurrence of rare blood clots is plausible but not yet confirmed
“Among the almost 200m individuals who have received the Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine around the world, cases of blood clots and low platelets are extremely low,” said the WHO.
In an effort to stay abreast with the unprecedented global vaccine rollout, the Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety is collecting and reviewing data from all countries involved in the exercise.
Based on current information, WHO considers that “the benefits greatly outweigh the risks and that countries in Africa should continue to vaccinate people with the Astra Zeneca vaccine”.
In Kenya, acting director general of health Dr Patrick Amoth has echoed the WHO position on the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
“We have not received any report on blood clots since the vaccination drive kicked off. As far as we are concerned, the vaccine is safe for use as its benefits clearly outweigh the risks,” Dr Amoth said in Nairobi on April 9, 2021.
According to WHO data, there have been around 4.3m covid-19 cases on the continent and 114,000 deaths. For the past two months, the region has seen a plateau of around 74,000 new cases per week.
The global health body takes note of the pandemic’s recent surge in Kenya that confirmed the third wave in progress.
“However, Kenya is experiencing the third wave and the epidemic is showing an upward trend in 14 other African countries including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Rwanda and Tunisia,” the document reads.
Africa finds itself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. It desperately needs the vaccines that rich countries are hoarding. Rich countries are meanwhile thinking of imposing restrictions and even discussing vaccine passports, a move that will further disadvantage the continent.