Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Xinhua/Liu Qu)

Nearly seven million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Africa targeting high-risk groups like healthcare workers, teachers and security officers, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said Thursday.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said immunization drive against the virus has gained steam in the continent amid a quest to flatten the curve and reopen key economic sectors fully.

“Although Africa received vaccines late and in limited quantities, a lot of ground has been covered in a short space of time,” Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

“This is due to the continent’s vast experience in mass vaccination campaigns and the determination of its leaders and people to effectively curb COVID-19,” she added.

Statistics from WHO indicate that 38 African countries have received more than 25 million COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility and 30 of them have kicked off mass inoculation.

Moeti hailed determination by African countries to vaccinate citizens against coronavirus amid rising caseload linked to a third wave and circulation of new variants.

“Compared with countries in other regions that accessed vaccines much earlier, the initial rollout phase in some countries has reached a far higher number of people,” said Moeti.

Among Sub-Saharan African countries that have made strides in mass immunization against coronavirus include Ghana which has administered 420,000 doses, covering over 60 percent of the targeted population in the virus hotspot.

Morocco has administered more than 5.6 million vaccine doses in the last seven weeks while in Angola, the jabs have reached over 49,000 people, including 28,000 health care workers in the past week.

Moeti said COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa has been seamless but cautioned that stockpiles were on the brink of exhaustion hence the need for replenishment.

“Countries are clocking an impressive vaccination pace, but we must ensure this speed does not slow down to a crawl. Additional supplies are urgently required to narrow the gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,”she said.

Richard Mihigo, immunization and vaccine development program coordinator at WHO Regional Office for Africa, said the continent has not recorded significant adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccine doses on recipients.

“Precautionary measures that are informed by science and data are in place to ensure that any side effect of the vaccine on the recipients is reported promptly,” said Mihigo.

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