The World Health Organisation ( WHO) has decried the low rate of COVID-19 vaccination in Africa as only two per cent of the total 5.7 billion doses of vaccine so far utilised globally have been administered in Africa.
The was stated by the organisation’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, during a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday.
The WHO boss added that Africa had been left behind by the rest of the world in the vaccination programme.
He said, “As you know, the WHO’s global targets are to support every country to vaccinate at least 40 per cent of its population by the end of this year, and 70 per cent of the world’s population by the middle of next year.
“So far, just two countries in Africa have reached the 40 per cent target, the lowest of any region. As I said last week, that’s not because African countries don’t have the capacity or experience to roll out vaccines. It is because they have been left behind by the rest of the world.
“More than 5.7 billion doses have been administered globally, but only two per cent of those have been administered in Africa.
“This leaves people at high risk of diseases and death by being exposed to a deadly virus against which many other people around the world enjoy protection.
“This doesn’t only hurt the people of Africa; it hurts all of us. The longer the vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing, the longer the social and economic disruption will continue, and the higher the chances that more variants will emerge that render vaccines less effective.”
Ghebreyesus said it was to avoid this situation that the WHO, GAVI, CEPI and UNICEF established COVAX last year to accelerate the development and equitable distribution of vaccines.
According to him, COVAX has so far shipped more than 260 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 141 countries.
He added, “But as you know, COVAX has also faced several challenges with manufacturers prioritising bilateral deals and many high-income countries tying up the global supply of vaccines.
“Last year, the African Union established the African COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Trust, or AVAT, as a complement to COVAX to purchase vaccines for AU member states.”
The WHO boss also called on vaccine manufacturers to prioritise the COVAX and AVAT facility to ensure adequate administration of vaccine doses in Africa.
He added, “We call on manufacturers to prioritise COVAX and AVAT; we call on countries that have already achieved high coverage levels to swap their near-term vaccine deliveries with COVAX and AVAT to fulfil their dose-sharing pledges immediately, and to facilitate the sharing of technology know-how and intellectual property to support regional vaccine manufacturing.
“We call on all countries and manufacturers to share information on bilateral deals with COVAX and AVAT so that we understand where vaccines are needed most, and to share information on supply and delivery projections so that countries can be ready to immediately roll out vaccines when they land.”
“And we call on all countries to recognise all vaccines with the WHO Emergency Use Listing. I may sound like a broken record – I don’t care. I will continue to call for vaccine equity until we get it.