The African continent faces almost 500 million doses short of the global year-end target of fully vaccinating 40% of its population as the COVAX Facility is forced to slash planned COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Africa by around 150 million this year.
This shortfall comes as Africa reached 8 million COVID-19 cases this week. With the cutback, COVAX will now deliver 470 million doses to Africa this year. This will be enough to vaccinate just 17% of the population, far below the 40% target.
According to the WHO, there is the need for an additional 470 million doses to reach the end-year target. This is even if all planned shipments via COVAX and the African Union are delivered. Meanwhile, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, highlighted that the vaccine gap will persist for a while.
“Export bans and vaccine hoarding have a chokehold on vaccine supplies to Africa. As long as rich countries lock COVAX out of the market, Africa will miss its vaccination goals. The huge gap in vaccine equity is not closing anywhere near fast enough. It is time for vaccine manufacturing countries to open the gates and help protect those facing the greatest risk” .Dr Matshidiso Moeti
Constraints of deliveries
Export bans, challenges in boosting production at COVAX manufacturing sites and delays in filing for regulatory approvals for new vaccines are constraining deliveries. As such, COVAX has called for donor countries to share their supply schedules to give more clarity on deliveries. Also, COVAX urged countries with enough vaccines to give up their place in the queue for deliveries for African countries.
For now, about 95 million more doses are set to arrive in Africa via COVAX throughout September. This will be the largest shipment the continent will receive for any month so far. For now, Africa has been able to fully vaccinate just 50 million people, or 3.6% of its people. Just about 2% of the nearly 6 billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa.
Meanwhile, the European Union and the United Kingdom have vaccinated over 60% of their people. Other high-income countries have administered 48 times more doses per person than low-income nations. The African situation, Dr Moeti said, could reverse the progress in containing the virus if not addressed.
“The staggering inequity and severe lag in shipments of vaccines threatens to turn areas in Africa with low vaccination rates into breeding grounds for vaccine-resistant variants. This could end up sending the whole world back to square one”.Dr Moeti
WHO support for Africa
Luckily, WHO is ramping up support to African countries to identify and address gaps in their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. WHO has assisted 15 African countries in conducting intra-action reviews. The reviews help these countries analyze all aspects of their vaccination campaigns and offer recommendations for improvements. The reviews have shown that vaccine supply security and uncertainty around deliveries continue to be a major impediment for many African countries.
Currently, there are over 300 staff in place across Africa supporting the COVID-19 response. The WHO is deploying experts and producing support plans in specific areas where countries need tailored assistance. This includes securing staff, financing, strengthening supply chains and logistics as well as boosting demand for vaccines. COVID-19 vaccine COVID-19 vaccine
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