Less than 2 percent of world’s COVID-19 vaccines administered in Africa-Report

Less than 2% of the 690 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date globally have been in Africa, where most…

Less than 2% of the 690 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date globally have been in Africa, where most countries received vaccines only five weeks ago and in small quantities, according to a new report released Thursday by the Africa Bureau of World Health Organisation (WHO).The report indicates that  forty-five African countries have received vaccines, 43 of them have  begun vaccinations and nearly 13 million of the 31.6 million doses  delivered so far have been administered. The pace of vaccine rollout is,  however, not uniform, with 93% of the doses given in 10 countries, it  said.

Vaccine rollout preparedness, including training of  health workers, prelisting priority groups has helped some countries  quickly reach a large proportion of the targeted high-risk population  groups such as health workers, the WHO said.

 The 10 countries that have vaccinated the most have used at least 65% of their supplies.

“Although  progress is being made, many African countries have barely moved beyond  the starting line. Limited stocks and supply bottlenecks are putting  COVID-19 vaccines out of reach of many people in this region,” said Dr  Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director  for Africa. “Fair access to vaccines must be a reality if we are to  collectively make a dent on this pandemic.”

Once delivered,  vaccine rollout in some countries has been delayed by operational and  financial hurdles or logistical difficulties such as reaching remote  locations. WHO is supporting countries to tackle the challenges by  reinforcing planning and coordination, advocating more financial  resources as well as setting up effective communications strategies to  address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

The delays are not  only affecting vaccine delivery to priority targets but expanding  vaccinations to the rest of the population, some of whom have expressed  eagerness to receive the doses. WHO set a target to start vaccinating  health workers and other priority groups in all countries in the first  100 days of 2021.

“Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination  catch-up, and the gap is widening. While we acknowledge the immense  burden placed by the global demand for vaccines, inequity can only  worsen scarcity,” said Dr Moeti. “More than a billion Africans remain on  the margins of this historic march to overcome the pandemic.”

Through the COVAX Facility, 16.6 million vaccine doses – mainly AstraZeneca – have been delivered to African countries.

The  WHO’s Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety this week concluded  that the link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the occurrence of rare  blood clots is plausible but not yet confirmed. This follows the  European Medicines Agency’s announcement that unusual blood clots should  be listed as very rare side-effects of the vaccine.

Among the  almost 200 million individuals who have received the AstraZeneca  COVID-19 vaccine around the world, cases of blood clots and low  platelets is extremely low.

The Global Advisory Committee for  Vaccine Safety continues to gather and review further data while  carefully monitoring the rollout of all COVID-19 vaccines. Based on  current information, WHO considers that the benefits greatly outweigh  the risks and that countries in Africa should continue to vaccinate  people with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There have now been  around 4.3 million COVID-19 cases on the African continent and 114 000  people have died. For the past two months, the region has seen a plateau  of around 74 000 new cases per week.

However,  Kenya is experiencing a third wave and the epidemic is showing an  upward trend in 14 other African countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea,  Mali, Rwanda and Tunisia, the report said.

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