Africa needs to ramp up its Covid-19 vaccination rate six times to achieve the target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its population by the end of June 2022.
And even as the continent records lower cases of Covid-19 infections in its fourth wave, health authorities are concerned about the low rate of vaccination making Africa lag behind in achieving its target as only about six million people in the continent are being vaccinated every week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in its weekly report on Thursday that “the continent is struggling to expand rollout.”
Together with United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), WHO and partners are launching an initiative to ramp up vaccination in the continent.
“The world has finally heard our calls. Africa is now accessing the vaccines it has demanded for far too long. This is a dose of hope for this year,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“However, a dependable pipeline must go hand in hand with operational funding to move doses out of depots and into people’s arms. WHO and partners are working with countries to urgently fix operational challenges, including supporting health workers to speed up vaccine delivery, save lives and beat back this pandemic,” she added.
Mr Mohammed Omer Mukhier, IFRC Regional Director for Africa, said, “This year, a lot more needs to be done to gain communities’ trust. When communities are in the driver’s seat, they become vital contributors to finding solutions to the outbreaks of diseases. In South Sudan, community-based Red Cross volunteers tackled the problem of slow vaccine uptake, through improved community trust, and helped prevent vaccine wastage.”
So far, the continent has received about 587 million doses of the Covid-19 jab, most of which (58 per cent) are from the Covax facility.
The WHO confirms that this year has started on a positive note as 96 million doses were shipped to Africa in January alone, which is more than double the shipment that was brought around June 2021.
While Mauritius and Seychelles have met the target of inoculating 70 percent of their populations, most African countries continue to record low vaccination rates.
In East Africa, Rwanda is the leading country in vaccination, having fully inoculated more than per cent of its population.
The WHO findings from about 40 countries in Africa shows that there is a funding gap for operational costs of about $1.29 billion.
“Richer countries must not only ensure they are donating vaccine doses that have adequate shelf lives but also contribute funding for in-country operational costs.”
The WHO has already deployed 50 experts to help in logistical and financial planning, surveillance of adverse events after vaccination, and the management of data on vaccination uptake and vaccine stock.