Africa’s COVID-19 vaccinations have dropped below 2 percent of the world’s total inoculations, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa.
Data from the agency shows the continent has administered just over 22 million doses, which accounts for 1.69 percent of the 1.3 billion COVID-19 vaccines given globally so far. Two weeks ago, Africa accounted for about 2 percent of the world’s vaccinations.
The health agency attributes this drop to a variety of factors, including a supply crunch, insufficient funds, slow rollout and vaccine hesitancy.
Approximately 40 nations on the continent rely on doses from the WHO’s COVAX initiative and the Serum Institute of India. These countries have recently struggled to obtain the vital jabs as vaccines made in India are diverted for domestic use amid a worsened situation there.
Other countries have also been unable to ensure fast and efficient rollout of mass vaccination programs for various reasons.
WHO says that despite eight African nations having already used all of their COVAX doses, nine countries have given less than a quarter of their doses and 15 countries have used less than half.
“It may be that some of the reporting from African countries to WHO is incomplete,” explains Dr Ephrem Lemango, an expert on essential immunization and primary health care with WHO, “but it seems that many countries need to step up efforts to use their vaccines.”
Dr Richard Mihigo, World Health Organization (WHO) Africa’s Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme Coordinator urged countries to step up their vaccinations using the available jabs as the hunt for more continues.
“We’re in a very tough spot when it comes to supply,” sais Dr Mihigo.
“What is crucial for Africa is that we urgently use all the doses we have to protect our most vulnerable populations.”
On the other hand, WHO notes that most African countries allocated funds to cover the cost of rolling out the first batch of vaccines, and some to reach all health workers. Thereafter, funding shortfalls have disrupted the programs as the number of people to be reached rises and areas to be covered located further away from major cities.
The health agency in Africa has also warned that dwindling vaccine supplies may force some countries to mix vaccines, with people getting different second vaccine jabs from those they received for the first shot.
“WHO recommends that countries stick with the same vaccine for both doses, yet with supplies dwindling, countries may be forced to mix second doses, or risk long delays between doses,” it said a statement.
By Friday, the continent had reported 4,666,162 COVID-19 infections with 125,548 deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.