Fifteen African countries – nearly one-third of the continent’s 54 nations – have vaccinated 10% of their people against COVID-19 fully, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa office has said.
The global goal of fully vaccinating 10% 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% of their populations, Morocco 48% and Tunisia, the Comoros and Cape Verde over 20%. Most of the African countries which have met the goal have relatively small populations and 40% are small-island developing states.
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.
Uncertainty around deliveries
Half of the 52 African countries that have received COVID-19 vaccines have fully vaccinated just 2% 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% of the population by the end of the year,” said Richard Mihigo, immunisation and vaccines development programme coordinator for the WHO Africa regional office.
“Shipments are increasing but opaque delivery plans are still the number one nuisance that holds Africa back.”
Nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, had reached the 10% goal at the beginning of September and another six managed to sprint ahead to reach the target this month with rising vaccine deliveries.
Twenty-three million COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Africa in September, a tenfold increase from June. Yet just 60 million Africans have been fully vaccinated so far and 2% of the more than six billion vaccines given globally have been administered on the continent.
COVAX is working with donors to identify the countries which currently can 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 for improving 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.
Vigilance despite declining rates
COVID-19 case numbers in Africa dropped by 35% to just over 74,000 in the week of 26 September. Almost 1,800 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 the APO Group. He was joined by Pamela Smith-Lawrence, acting director in charge of health services with the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness, and Fortunate Bhembe, deputy director of pharmaceutical services with the Ministry of Health in the kingdom of Eswatini.
Also on hand to answer questions were Fiona Braka, team lead for emergency operations with the WHO regional office for Africa, and Thierno Balde, regional COVID-19 deputy incident manager with WHO’s the regional office for Africa.