Eighty per cent of African countries might miss the goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable among their populations against COVID-19 before the end of September, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
Data from the world health body on Thursday showed that 42 out of 54 African countries are far away from meeting the global target set in May by the World Health Assembly(WHA), going by the current rates of vaccine deliveries and inoculations.
WHA, the world’s highest health policy-setting body, had challenged all governments to vaccinate 10 per cent of their population by the end of September.
But nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, have so far met the goal, with three more countries likely to be joining them going by their pace.
According to WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, two more additional countries could meet the target if vaccinations are sped up.
“With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally. Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and, we urgently need more vaccines but as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from COVID-19,” she said.
Africa received nearly 21 million vaccine doses in August through the COVAX solidarity initiative: an amount equal to the previous four months combined.
More vaccines are expected from COVAX and the African Union by the end of the current month, WHO said, which could see enough doses delivered to meet the 10 per cent target.
Even though countries ramped up vaccinations following the increased shipments last month, 26 nations have used less than half their doses.
In all, Africa has received 143 million vaccines, and 39 million people, or roughly three per cent of the continent’s population, are fully inoculated.
In comparison, the figure is 52 per cent in the United States and 57 per cent in the European Union.
“The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just two per cent of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa.
“Yet recent rises in vaccine shipments and commitments shows that a fairer, more just global distribution of vaccines looks possible,” Moeti said.
WHO urged countries to continue to address operational gaps and continually improve, adapt and refine their vaccination campaigns. Meanwhile, the organisation reported that COVID-19 cases are declining slightly in Africa but remain “stubbornly high.”
Twenty-five countries on the continent are reporting high or fast-rising caseloads, while over 5,500 deaths were reported during the same period.