The current Covid-19 surge in Africa is proving to be the most brutal in the continent, warn the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa and the Africa CDC, even as the vaccine supply crunch persists.
Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) John Nkengasong said last week on Thursday that Africa was losing the battle against the coronavirus and expressed concern that the virus might gain what he called “endemicity” in parts of the continent.
Africa is facing a fast-surging third wave of Covid-19 pandemic, according to WHO with cases spreading more rapidly and projected to soon overtake the peak of the second wave the continent witnessed at the start of the year.
“Timely access to vaccines to vaccinate at scale and with speed is crucial if we’re to win this battle,” said Dr Nkengasong.
This comes even as it became apparent that the WHO-backed Covax was headed for an overhaul over its failure to deliver on its mandate to procure vaccines for the continent.
Dr Nkengasong warned that without expeditious access to vaccines the virus will spread to rural areas, where it is extremely difficult to mop up, “because that will become the beginning of the endemicity of the pandemic and we will then move from a pandemic to thinking of how to manage it in terms of an endemic disease as with malaria, HIV and others.”
The original plan was to do rapid mass vaccinations, which unfortunately has not happened and we are far away from the targets we had hoped to achieve by now.”
During the week, the World Bank announced that it was stepping in to help Africa get vaccines. The announcement was made during a meeting between African finance ministers and the lender.
Hospitals in Uganda, DR Congo and Zambia have been overrun by the pandemic and the WHO is deploying more laboratory experts to monitor variants of concern.
“The third wave which has hit 20 countries thus far, has come with a severity that was not expected. Most countries were not prepared for it,” said Dr Nkengasong.
The Africa CDC said the delta variant is aggressively taking over from other variants in 20 countries on the continent.
“The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet. Africa can still blunt the impact of these fast-rising infections, but the window of opportunity is closing. Everyone everywhere can do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission,” said WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti.