Addis Ababa: The goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of Africa’s population against Covid-19 by December appears elusive as the continent grapples with cutbacks on doses supplied via multilateral platforms, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official said.
In a statement on Thursday, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the continent faces a nearly 500 million vaccine shortfall, as the COVAX facility slashes 150 million doses that were slated for delivery this year, reports Xinhua news agency.
According to Moeti, COVAX facility will only deliver 470 million doses to Africa this year, enough to vaccinate 17 per cent of the population, hence derailing the quest to expand coverage of the fully immunised population.
She noted that export bans and vaccine hoarding is slowing down vaccine deliveries to Africa where a partly 50 million people or 3.6 per cent of the population is fully immunised against the virus.
“The huge gap in vaccine equity is not closing anywhere near fast enough. It is time for vaccine manufacturing countries to open the gates and help those facing the greatest risk,” said Moeti.
She regretted that delays in filing for regulatory approval for new vaccines alongside inability to boost production capacity at COVAX manufacturing sites have constrained deliveries to Africa.
Moeti said that COVAX and other multilateral platforms have been lobbying rich nations to clarify on the timelines for donation of vaccines to Africa even as manufacturers are encouraged to hasten the delivery process.
She said that about 95 million additional doses are set to arrive in Africa via COVAX facility throughout September adding that availability of larger stockpiles with longer shelf life will boost the pandemic fight in the continent.
Moeti warned that sluggish vaccination in Africa where more than 8 million Covid-19 cases and 204,821 related deaths were reported, could lead to emergence of highly contagious variants.
She said that WHO had ramped up support to African countries to enable them identify logistical, financing and personnel bottlenecks that have derailed speedy vaccine roll-out.