The delays in supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa linked to the crisis in India could reignite new waves of infections in the continent, the World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said during weekly virtual briefings that the COVID-19 vaccine supply crunch combined with new variants could undermine efforts to contain the pandemic in the continent.
“While we call for vaccine equity, Africa must also knuckle down and make the best of what we have. We must get all the doses we have into people’s arms,” Moeti said in a statement.
According to WHO, Africa currently accounts for 1 percent of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally, down from 2 percent a few weeks ago amid supply bottlenecks. Moeti said that low vaccination coverage in Africa where eight doses per 1,000 people have been administered compared to 150 doses per 1,000 people globally, bodes ill for the continent’s quest to flatten the curve.
Statistics from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) indicate that 37.6 million doses had been acquired in the continent while 20.2 million had been administered as of May 4.
The pan African health agency said that the top five countries in Africa in terms of administering the highest number of doses include Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Kenya.
Moeti said WHO has rallied behind efforts to mitigate the harmful impact of the COVID-19 vaccine supply crunch in Africa that includes appealing for a donation of excess doses from wealthy nations and fast-tracking establishment of structures to boost local manufacturing of the life-saving commodity.
She said meticulous planning, training of health workers, and investments in cold chain infrastructure are key to ensure the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in Africa is seamless.
Richard Mihigo, an immunization and vaccine development program coordinator, WHO regional office for Africa said that diversifying sources of COVID jab could offer some respite to the supply crunch that has stalled inoculation drives in the continent.