Friday, June 18

Without Vaccine Boost, Many African Nations May Not Meet W.H.O. Goal


Only seven African nations, most of them small, are expected to meet the World Health Organization’s goal that each country across the world be able to vaccinate 10 percent of its people against the coronavirus by September. It is a dire prospect for a continent where vaccine supplies are being quickly depleted, and governments are battling a resurgence in infections.

The global health body said Thursday that inoculation coverage remained at about 2 percent continentwide — and about 1 percent in sub-Saharan Africa — even as some rich nations across the world administered shots to a majority of their people. To achieve the 10 percent target for each country on the continent, Africa would need an extra 225 million doses, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the W.H.O. regional director for Africa. In total, nine out of 10 African nations will miss out on this global vaccination goal, the agency estimated.

The seven countries are Seychelles, Morocco, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Zimbabwe. An additional six countries — Tunisia; Ghana; Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland; Lesotho; Rwanda; and Kenya — could reach the target if they receive enough supply to keep up with their current pace of vaccination, the W.H.O. said.

“This will really require a massive effort,” Dr. Moeti admitted, saying that “without a significant boost” in the availability of vaccines, “many African lives are at stake.”

The announcement came as Africa is set to surpass five million virus cases, with Covid having claimed 133,000 lives so far. While testing is often limited in the countries on the continent, known cases have also increased, with 94,145 new ones reported in the past week — a 26 percent increase from the previous week — according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Countries including Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia have reported a surge in cases, while some, like Uganda, reintroduced lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus. The Africa C.D.C. also said deaths on the continent increased by 2 percent over the past week, and many more countries have reported detecting the variants first reported in South Africa, Britain and India.

And just as cases and deaths rise, many African nations have reported exhausting most of the vaccines they received through Covax, a global vaccine initiative. The W.HO. said that 14 African nations have utilized between 80 percent and 100 percent of their doses.

Still, only 35.9 million Covid vaccine doses have been administered in the continent, according to the Africa C.D.C., with the majority given in a few countries, including Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa, and in the Western Sahara region. Tanzania, Eritrea and Burundi have yet to give a single shot while Togo and Chad only started administering jabs last week.

While some countries faced shortages, others were not rolling out campaigns quickly. Twenty nations have used less than half of their doses, the W.H.O. estimated, while 12 nations have more than 10 percent of their doses facing expiration.



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