WHO says slow vaccinations limit Africa’s chances of stopping the emergence of new COVID-19 variants

People line up to be tested for the new crown virus at the Windhoek Center in Namibia. People queue in the Windhoek, Namibia centre, to be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday June 15, 2021. (Photo by Dirk Heinrich via CFP)
People line up to be tested for the new crown virus at the Windhoek Center in Namibia. /CFP

Africa’s chances of limiting the emergence and impact of new COVID-19 variants remain low as the continent continues to grapple with low vaccination numbers, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

Moeti sounded the warning on Thursday at a media briefing on the continent’s COVID-19 situation.

“This year should mark a turning point in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive. With vast swaths of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of deadly variants are frighteningly slim,” said Dr. Moeti.

“We have the know-how and the tools and with a concerted push we can certainly tip the balance against the pandemic,” she added.

According to the WHO, more than 85 percent of people in Africa are yet to receive a single dose of COVID-19 vaccines and just around 10 percent of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated.

African countries form the majority of the 90 nations globally that have still not reached the WHO end-2021 target of vaccinating at least 40 percent of their populations.

The continent’s vaccination drive was hampered by the slow arrival of vaccine doses in the first half of last year. The latter half saw more batches arrive, but inoculation numbers remain much lower compared to other regions.

In her briefing, however, Dr Moeti pointed out that while Africa’s fourth pandemic wave is flattening, the continent still needs to continue with pandemic countermeasures.

So far, Africa has reported 10,066,092 COVID-19 infections with 231,445 fatalities, according to data from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.