Covid19 – Africa desperately short of vaccines
In South Africa, which has the continent’s most robust economy and its biggest coronavirus caseload, just 0.8 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a worldwide tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University. Hundreds of thousands of the country’s health workers, many of whom come face-to-face with the virus every day, are still waiting for their shots.
In Nigeria, Africa’s biggest country with more than 200 million people, only 0.1 per cent are fully protected. Kenya, with 50 million people, is even lower. Uganda has recalled doses from rural areas because it doesn’t have nearly enough to fight outbreaks in big cities.
There are at least five other countries in Africa where not one dose has been put into an arm, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccine at the same time a new wave of infections is rising across Africa.
Poorer countries had warned as far back as last year of this impending vaccine inequality, fearful that rich nations would hoard doses. In an interview, Nkengasong called on the leaders of wealthy nations meeting this week at the G-7 summit to share spare vaccines something the United States has already agreed to do and avert a “moral catastrophe.” “I’d like to believe that the G-7 countries, most of them having kept excess doses of vaccines, want to be on the right side of history,” Nkengasong said.
Many countries failed to prepare adequately before receiving the vaccines, Phionah Atuhebwe, from the WHO in Africa, says. “That is one of the reasons we are seeing the slow pace of rollout,” she says. South Sudan says in addition to the problem of limited financial resources, the country has also struggled because of a reluctance by health care workers to get vaccinated. A health ministry official there has also pointed out that its parliament was slow in approving the vaccines, along with delays in training health workers for the task.