GENEVA – The World Health Organization is urging African countries to intensify preparations for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in anticipation of the imminent arrival of millions of doses of the vaccine on the continent. The WHO reports that more than 6.2 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 159,000 have died.
New cases of COVID-19 in Africa have dropped slightly after eight weeks of a rapid rise. The decline has been attributed to a sharp drop in cases in South Africa. However, the World Health Organization reports that the situation could change rapidly as violent protests and mass gatherings in the country could trigger a further surge in cases.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, says Africa’s third wave is not over. She noted that 21 countries, three more than last week, are experiencing a resurgence. She says the highly contagious delta variant has now been found in 26 countries and 13 of them need more oxygen because of the rise in cases.
She says Africa is still lagging behind in COVID-19 vaccines, with just 20 million Africans, or 1.5 percent of the continent’s population, fully vaccinated. But she says Africa’s supply crunch is starting to ease.
She says the first delivery of doses donated by the United States through the COVAX facility is coming to Africa this week and that about 60 million doses are expected from other sources in the coming weeks.
“If African countries are to arm all these doses and fully vaccinate 10 percent of their most vulnerable people by the end of September, they should accelerate their vaccine rollouts five to six times,” Moeti said. ” “About 3.5 to four million doses are administered each week on the continent, but this needs to increase to 21 million doses each week to meet this goal.”
Moeti says more than half a billion doses are expected through COVAX this year alone. She says this huge influx means countries must up their game.
“We need to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy,” Moeti said. “So, this communication – targeting people, targeting the messages that we are tracking and misinformation or fears and misconceptions is absolutely critical now because people don’t have time to be ready to be vaccinated when vaccines are coming out. It’s all we have to do now in this narrow window sill.”
Regional director Moeti says countries should scale up their operations. She says countries need adequate vaccine sites, storage facilities, adequate transportation, planning for distribution, and of course, health care workers to carry out this life-saving activity.