Vaccine supply crunch adds to risk of COVID-19 resurgence


Shafaq News/ With Africa-bound COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India delayed for the foreseeable future, slow vaccine rollouts and new variants making inroads, the risk of a new wave of infections in Africa remains high.

According to WHO, Delays and shortages of vaccine supplies are driving African countries to slip further behind the rest of the world in the COVID-19 vaccine roll out and the continent now accounts for only 1% of the vaccines administered worldwide, down from 2% a few weeks ago.

COVID-19 vaccine rollouts have been exemplary in some African countries, yet around half, or 19 million, of the 37 million COVID-19 vaccine doses received in Africa have been administered so far, according to reports from African countries.

Initial deliveries through COVAX to 41 African nations have been staggered since early March, yet nine countries have administered less than a quarter of the doses they have, and 15 countries have given less than half. Eight countries have given all of their COVAX doses. WHO said.

It is noteworthy, Africa’s vaccination coverage is the lowest for any region of the world. While globally, 150 doses of the vaccine have been administered per 1000 people, in sub-Saharan Africa it’s about 8 doses per 1000 people. Low vaccination coverage places African countries at higher risk of a massive upsurge in cases.

South Africa and India are leading efforts to temporarily waive patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines and medicines at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The United States has offered its support to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines. WHO reported.

WHO is assisting African member states efforts to roll-out COVID-19 vaccines with preparation, coordination, and training of health professionals, providing policy and technical guidance and assisting with communications to boost the uptake of vaccines.

Although capacities have improved over the past year, hospital beds with capacity to deliver oxygen, and oxygen supplies, remain limited in most countries. Whereas most high-income countries globally have at least two intensive care beds per 100 000 people, only nine countries in the African Region have this many.

WHO is supporting countries to increase their oxygen supplies by providing technical assistance to high-risk countries in how to build oxygen production plants, as well as delivering more than 3,500 oxygen concentrators. WHO is collaborating with professional medical and nursing associations on the continent to scale up critical care training in member states.

In Africa, there have now been almost 4.6 million COVID-19 cases and 123,000 lives lost to this virus. In the past two weeks there has been a slight decrease in cases after a six-week plateau. However, in nine countries there is an upward trend, including in Angola, Cabo Verde, Cameroon and Eritrea.

Dr Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director, Country Programmes, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Also on hand to answer questions were Dr Richard Mihigo, Immunization and Vaccine Development Programme Coordinator, WHO Regional Office for Africa and Dr Ngoy Nsenga, WHO COVID-19 Incident Manager.

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