Brazzaville, Congo | Xinhua | COVID-19 vaccine shipments to Africa must rise by over seven times from around 20 million to 150 million each month on average in order to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its people by September 2022, said the World Health Organization in a statement Thursday.
The 70 percent target was agreed at the global COVID-19 summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week.
“The global COVID-19 summit was a dose of hope for Africa and we commend pledges to share more vaccines, save lives and build back better. It is the kind of international solidarity that will help to end the pandemic. This is about life and death for potentially millions of Africans so there is no time to waste in getting these shipments moving,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The COVAX Facility, the global platform to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, has been forced to slash planned deliveries to Africa by 25 percent this year, due to global supply shortages and export bans. COVAX shipments are still coming into African countries — with 4 million doses received in the past week. However, only a third of the vaccines that wealthy countries pledged to share with Africa by the end of 2021 have been received.
Statistics from Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) indicates that 136.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered in the continent as of Wednesday, while 4.06 percent of the population is fully immunized.
“Actions speak far louder than words and African countries need clear delivery dates so they can plan properly. We also need strong structures set up to ensure that all promises made are promises kept,” said Moeti.
The reviews have shown that vaccine supply security and uncertainty around deliveries have been a major impediment for many African countries, warned WHO, adding that the delay in rolling out the vaccines poses great risk of additional challenges emerging such as variants, hesitancy, operational gaps or other threats.
There have now been nearly 8.2 million COVID-19 cases recorded on the continent. The Delta variant has been found in 38 African countries. The Alpha variant has been detected in 45 countries and the Beta in 40 ones.
“Health workers, services and communities can and should use this time to regroup and prepare for the next wave. With end-of-year travel and festive celebrations fast approaching, fresh increases in cases should be expected in the coming months. Without widespread vaccination and other preventive measures, the continent’s fourth wave is likely to be the most brutal yet,” said Moeti.