WHO: Africa Left Behind in Race for COVID-19 Vaccine
By Lisa Schlein April 08, 2021
The World Health Organization says Africa's rollout of COVID-19 vaccine is being hampered by supply shortages and delays in planned deliveries. To date, the WHO reports 4.3 million cases of COVID-19 in Africa, including 114,000 deaths.
A few countries are bucking the trend and making good progress in immunizing their populations against the deadly coronavirus. The World Health Organization says Morocco has purchased 8.7 million doses of vaccine and has administered more shots to its population than any other African country.
It adds a few other countries, notably Ghana, Rwanda and Angola, also have distributed a significant proportion of their vaccine within a short time. However, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said more than one billion Africans still have not been able to avail themselves of the life-saving tool.
She said Africa has administered only two percent of the more than 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine that has been dispensed globally.
"Ten African countries that have carried out the most vaccinations have now used up over two-thirds of the supplies that they have received. At the same time, countries such as Benin, Comoros, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan have faced delays in rolling out vaccines due to constraints around funding, planning and human resource shortages," said Moeti.
Delay in vaccine shipment
In another setback, Moeti said delays in COVAX shipments are expected to continue this month because India is fighting a severe second wave of COVID-19. As a consequence, she said India, which is a major manufacturer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has temporarily banned exports.
The European Medicines Agency Wednesday announced a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and unusual blood clots with low platelets. Despite that, Moeti said she would welcome delivery of that vaccine as soon as it is available.
"While concerning, the events under assessment are very rare, I would like to emphasize. Almost 200 million individuals have received the vaccine around the world and cases of blood clots and low platelets are extremely low, with less than 100 events viewed in Europe," she said.
Of greater concern, she says is the unequal distribution of life-saving vaccine, which is largely available in wealthy countries and scarce in poor countries. To help right that wrong, Moeti said high-income countries should share their surplus supplies of vaccine with other, less fortunate countries.
By doing that, she acknowledges all countries will be sharing the risks. At the same time, she said they will minimize the emergence of further variants of the coronavirus and show solidarity in defeating the devastating disease.
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