COVID-19 Vaccines Scarcity: WHO urges countries to urgently share vaccines

As a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa looms, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urges countries that can, to urgently share COVID-19 vaccines with others.

According to it, this has become critical as the COVID-19 vaccines are scarce and many of our most vulnerable people remain dangerously exposed to the virus.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, made the call on Thursday during a WHO-Africa COVID-19 virtual press conference, facilitated by APO Group.

She was joined by Hon. Pierre N’Gou Dimba, Cote d’Ivoire’s Minister of Health, and Ms Luchen Foster, Director of Health Partnerships, Facebook.

Also, Dr Phionah Atuhebwe, Vaccines Introduction Officer, WHO Regional Office for Africa and Dr Thierno Balde, Team Leader, Operational Partnerships, WHO Regional Office for Africa attended the brieifing.

Moeti said that the the pandemic was trending upwards in 10 African countries, with four nations recording a spike in new cases of over 30 per cent in the past seven days.

This is compared with the previous week.

“As we are close to five million cases and a third wave in Africa looms, and the vaccines are scarce, many of our most vulnerable people remain dangerously exposed to COVID-19.

“Vaccines have been proven to prevent cases and deaths, so countries that can, must urgently share COVID-19 vaccines,” she said.

Moeti said that at 32 million doses, Africa accounts for less than one per cent of the over 2.1 billion doses administered globally.

She added that just two per cent of the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received one dose and only 9.4 million Africans were fully vaccinated.

She also noted that as COVID-19 cases in Africa rises week-on-week and vaccines increasingly scarce, 47 of Africa’s 54 countries were likely to miss the September 2021 target of vaccinating 10 per cent of their population.

According to her, this means that nearly 90 per cent of the countries in Africa may miss vaccinating their population by the set target time.

Moeti said the new global target was announced recently at the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body, and at today’s pace only seven African countries were set to meet it.

According to her, Africa nears five million COVID-19 cases, the numbers are rising week-on-week and increased by nearly 20 per cent to over 88 000 in the week ending on June 6.

She said the pandemic was trending upwards in 10 African countries, with four nations recording a spike in new cases of over 30 per cent in the past seven days, compared with the previous week.

She said that U. S. President Joe Biden’s planned announcement for the U.S. to purchase and donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union was an important step forward.

Emphasising the need for more vaccines, Moeti said African countries must ramp up actions to swiftly rollout the vaccines they have.

“While 14 African countries have used from 80 per cent to 100 per cent of the doses they received through the COVAX Facility, 20 countries have used less than 50 per cent of the doses received.

“Also, 12 countries have more than 10 per cent of their AstraZeneca doses at risk of expiring by the end of August.

“We need to ensure that the vaccines that we have are not wasted because every dose is precious. Countries that are lagging behind in their rollout need to step up vaccination efforts,” Moeti said.

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