Fifteen African countries have succeeded in fully vaccinating at least 10 percent of their populations against COVID-19 by September 30, a goal set by the World Health Organization in May. However, that leaves two-thirds of the continent’s 54 nations extremely vulnerable to the deadly disease.
Several countries have performed extremely well. Seychelles and Mauritius have fully vaccinated more than 60 percent of their populations and Morocco has inoculated 48 percent against the coronavirus.
Richard Mihigo is coordinator of the Vaccine-preventable Diseases Department in the WHO’s regional office for Africa. He said those countries were able to achieve and even excede the 10 percent target because they had a steady vaccine supply available.
He said most had the money to strike bilateral deals to procure vaccine in addition to the supplies delivered through the COVAX facility.
“Unfortunately, 70 percent of African countries have missed this important milestone to protect their most vulnerable, with half of the 52 countries with COVID-19 vaccination programs in Africa having inoculated less than two percent of their populations,” said Mihigo.
That compares to an inoculation rate of 50 percent or higher in wealthier countries.
The WHO reports monthly vaccine deliveries to Africa have increased 10-fold since June. However, it notes more than double that amount is needed to reach the 40 percent immunization target of Africa’s 1.3 billion people by the end of the year.
Mihigo said COVAX is identifying countries that do not have the means to procure vaccines and put them in the front of the line to get enough doses to cover their most at-risk populations. However, he said pledges of doses by wealthier countries need to materialize soon.
“Starting next week, we are sending multi-disciplinary teams of international experts to countries that are struggling to scale up their operations so that we can drill down and identify the bottlenecks so that the local authorities and their partners can remedy them as they continue to rollout the vaccines,” said Mihigo.
On a more positive note, the World Health Organization says COVID-19 infections in Africa dropped by 35 percent to just over 74,000 last week, with more than 1,700 deaths reported in 34 countries.
Despite the declining numbers, the WHO warns people must remain vigilant and continue to adhere to proven public health measures to save lives. Those include the wearing of masks, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.