Why Africa could face vaccine-resistant Covid

Tuesday June 15 2021
Covid-19 patient.

Health workers attend to a Covid-19 patient at an isolation ward in Kenya's capital Nairobi on April 17, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Africa risks having a Covid-19 strain resistant to all the vaccines available as the virus continues mutating amid a slow vaccination drive.

According to the Africa CDC, new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 are rapidly spreading across continents and multiple variants are emerging in Africa, some deadlier, as the continent slips into a third wave.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is concerned about the slowdown in vaccination, with 47 of Africa’s 54 countries at the risk of missing the September target of vaccinating 10 percent of their population, unless 225 million doses are made available.

Africa CDC Director Dr John Nkengasong said in his latest briefing on June 10, that 53 percent of African countries have the variant initially reported in the UK, 47 percent have the variant initially reported in South Africa, and 22 percent have the variant that originated in India.

With Africa accounting for about two percent of global Covid-19 vaccination, countries are staring at new waves of infections from the new variants.

“The situation continues to get complicated as some countries have a mixture of all three variants. And this speaks to the need to adhere to public health prevention measures and scale up vaccination,” said Dr Nkengasong.


Data shows that 14 countries are now heading towards the third wave, and “the Indian variant is getting a hold on the continent.”

“We now know that the variants are extremely impactful to our programme. They create in some scenarios less efficacy for the vaccines and secondly transmission can actually be enhanced by up to 40 percent with some of the variants,” Dr Nkengasong said.

The pandemic is trending upwards in 10 African countries, with four recording a spike in new cases of over 30 percent in the past week, compared with the previous week.

Seventy-two percent of the new cases were reported in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.

Between May 31 and June 6, the continent reported 94,000 new cases, a 26 percent increase in cases, compared with the previous week.