GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization says COVID-19 vaccine distribution in African countries is accelerating and hopeful signs are emerging that a significant proportion of Africa’s population will be covered by the end of the year. Latest figures put the number of infections in Africa at more than 3.9 million, with 104,000 deaths.
Data show the COVID-19 pandemic overall is on a downward trend in most countries on the continent. However, World Health Organization officials fear a resurgence of cases in the future as pressure increases to ease lockdown restrictions. They point to a recent rise of COVID-19 cases in 10 countries as a worrying sign.
At the same time, the acceleration of vaccine distribution in Africa is giving rise to hope.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said nearly 10 million vaccine doses have been delivered to 11 countries this week and she expects about half of all countries on the continent will receive COVID-19 vaccine deliveries in the coming weeks.
She said most countries will have vaccination programs underway by the end of March. Moeti said the COVAX facility is targeting three percent of the population as it starts its vaccine rollout across Africa. But, she added, COVAX aims to increase that figure and cover 20 percent of the population by the end of the year.
“We are very pleased that the African Union, working through its acquisition, vaccine acquisition task team has targeted ensuring that by the end of the year, sufficient vaccine has been procured and available to countries to cover 60 percent of the population,” she said.
By the end of the year, Moeti said she hopes to reach a level of coverage in African countries that not only reduces severe illness and deaths but also starts to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
In other words, she said she hopes the continent will achieve so-called herd immunity.