Vaccination rates in Africa remain the lowest in the world, as the continent is “racing towards” the target of vaccinating 70 percent of its population, said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.
One year since the COVAX Facility delivered the first COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, around 400 million doses have been administered, the continent’s largest-ever vaccine rollout in a single year said in a statement Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
However, vaccination rates in the continent are the lowest in the world, as only 13 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated. Eighteen countries have vaccinated less than 10 percent of their population and three have vaccinated less than 1 percent. Twenty-nine countries have used less than 50 percent of their vaccine stock, according to the statement.
“The global vaccine equity gap may be closing, but there remains so much work to be done. In the months ahead, the COVAX looks forward to supporting countries further, providing targeted and tailored support where needed and ensuring supply matches countries’ needs as they work towards their vaccination targets,” said Aurelia Nguyen, Managing Director of the Office of the COVAX Facility.
High-risk populations also remain critically underserved by vaccination programs. In 27 countries reporting data on health worker vaccination, 33 percent of their health workforce is fully vaccinated, while only 21 percent of adults over 50 years are fully vaccinated in 24 African countries reporting the data, warned the WHO.
In late 2021, the WHO predicted that the African continent might not reach the target of vaccinating 70 percent of its 1.3 billion population until the second half of 2024, while the goal is to have 70 percent coverage across the world by June 2022, according to the WHO vaccine strategy.
But according to Phionah Atuhebwe, new vaccines’ introduction officer of the WHO regional office for Africa, the 70 percent target is still achievable.
“With everything that we have put in place now, by early next year, we should be able to meet the 70-percent target,” said Atuhebwe at the online press conference held Thursday, noting the importance of pediatric vaccination given that “most of Africa’s population is young”.
“We need a significant turnaround to scale up vaccination and protect a greater proportion of our population against this virus. Countries have recognized this and are stepping up the pace rapidly as we race towards the mid-2022 target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of the world’s population,” she said.