Africa has only administered 2 percent of the more than 690 million COVID-19 vaccine doses given globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
The United Nations health agency noted that nearly 13 million doses of vaccines have been administered across some 43 countries on the continent which has so far only received 31.6 million doses.
The continent’s number of vaccinations is just a fraction of the number already achieved in the United States, which has surpassed the 150 million mark.
The shortfall experienced is despite the existence of WHO’s COVAX facility, whose main aim is to ensure global vaccine equity.
Of the 31.6 million vaccine shots availed in Africa, the facility has delivered some 16.6 million doses around the continent, mainly AstraZeneca.
“Although progress is being made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line. Limited stocks and supply bottlenecks are putting COVID-19 vaccines out of reach of many people in this region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Fair access to vaccines must be a reality if we are to collectively make a dent on this pandemic.”
Dr Moeti’s remarks came a day after Namibian President Hage Geingob claimed the existence of “vaccine apartheid.”
Geingob in his speech at the World Health Day 2021 noted that despite his country having placed orders for vaccines weeks ago, the shots were yet to arrive in the Southern African country.
“I wish to express my disappointment in the manner in which COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, and this points to a form of vaccine Apartheid,” said Geingob.
By Thursday afternoon, Africa had reported a total of 4,301,375 infections with some 114, 598 virus-related deaths.
WHO noted that parts of the continent were experiencing a third wave of the virus, with countries including Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mali, Eritrea and Tunisia seeing an upward trend in their caseloads.
WHO Director-General Tedsos Adhanom has been a constant voice in the calls for vaccine equity. He has continuously urged countries to share vaccines to ensure a synchronized fight against the virus.