The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday the inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution is being felt most acutely in Africa where only a fraction of the world’s 600 million doses has been administered.
Speaking during a virtual news briefing from the agency’s Africa headquarters in Congo-Brazzaville, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said vaccination is a lifesaving tool in the response to the pandemic, but distribution inequities have left a billion Africans marginalized in what she called “this historic march to end the pandemic.”
Moeti said nations like Ghana, Rwanda and Angola have successfully delivered a significant amount of vaccine within a short time, thanks to good staff training and preparation, prelisting of priority groups and early community communication.
But she said 10 African nations that have delivered most of the vaccinations on the continent have used up more than two-thirds of their supply. She said countries like Benin, the Comoros, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan have faced delays in rolling out vaccines due to a lack of funding, planning and human resources.
The WHO Africa chief did say deliveries are expected from the WHO-managed global vaccine cooperative COVAX in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Niger, Cameroon and the Comoros. And they are working with manufacturers and non-governmental agencies to scale up production.
Moeti appealed to pharmaceutical companies to support wider manufacturing of the COVID-19 vaccine, and urged wealthy countries to move quickly “from pledges to action in sharing surplus doses so that all at-risk populations can be protected globally."