African officials and experts have questioned the continent’s economic growth and prosperity as the majority of the African population still remain without COVID-19 vaccinations.
This came during the latest edition of Africa’s Recovery Talk Series, which brought together the officials and experts who expressed deep concern about the continent’s current vaccination status, according to a statement from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), a regional commission of the United Nations.
Chairing the latest talk, ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe noted that Africa’s drive to economic prosperity goes through the COVID-19 vaccines.
Only 2.3 percent of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion has been vaccinated, with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) targeting that 30 percent be vaccinated by December 2021.
To achieve herd immunity, about 60 to 70 percent of the population must be vaccinated, said the statement, indicating that Africa has secured 400 million doses of the vaccines to date, but the continent needs 1.6 billion for its people.
Speaking on the occasion, Director of Africa CDC John Nkengasong noted that health security is both an economic and national security issue.
“Strengthening your health system is not a cost, but an investment,” said Nkengason, indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought a lot of damage to the continent’s aspiration and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
“Africa must place the public health agenda at the center of both the political and economic dialogue. You do not dig your wells when you are thirsty, but you dig them before you are. You do not develop your health system in the middle of a pandemic, but you do so in preparation for a pandemic,” he said.
Another panelist, Kennedy Odeke, underlined the need to bring on board community leaders into the fight against the pandemic to achieve herd immunity in Africa.
“COVID-19 has come in as a way to show us the disparity in our communities, which, if not addressed, will see the pandemic creating more economic difficulty,” warned Odeke.