Geneva – The African continent may not reach the target of vaccinating 70% of its population of 1.3 billion against covid-19 by the second half of 2024, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared today (Tuesday).
The warning comes when the world faces a new increase in cases driven by the new, more contagious variant, Omicron.
Health officials in South Africa, who announced the new variant, say initial data indicate that it causes less severe illness and shorter, less intensive hospital stays.
However, some richer countries, motivated by the appearance of this new variant, decided to allow booster doses of the vaccine in response.
In contrast, less than 8% of the African population received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
“We will never get out of this if we don’t work together as one world,” said South African Faculty of Medicine President Flavia Senkubuge during the World Health Organization (WHO) briefing.
Only 20 out of 54 African countries have fully vaccinated at least 10% of their population against covid-19, and 10 countries have fully vaccinated less than 2% of their population.
WHO Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, backed down against any suggestion that African nations are allowing large numbers of vaccine doses to be wasted due to poor infrastructure and hesitancy to vaccinate.
Nigeria has just announced it would destroy about a million doses of vaccine which had expired. But it blames the waste on the fact that the vaccines were close to expiry when they were donated to Nigeria.
The African continent has received about 434 million doses of vaccine, and about 910,000 of them expired in 20 countries, representing less than a quarter of 1%, explained Moeti.
The main challenge in Africa remains access to the supply of vaccines, concluded Moeti.
Covid-19 has caused at least 5,304,397 deaths worldwide, among more than 269 million infections with the new coronavirus registered since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the most recent report by the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The respiratory disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China, and currently with variants identified in several countries.
A new variant, Omicron, classified as “worrying” by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been detected in southern Africa, but since the South African health authorities raised the alert on 24 November, infections in the skin have been reported. minus 57 countries from all continents.