Health crisis slows Africa Covid jab rollout – survey

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 05:00 | By
Covid jab
A person gets a Covid jab. PD/File

Emergencies that are affecting some African countries has stagnated Covid-19 vaccine rollout, it has emerged.

Analysis by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows outbreaks of polio, measles, yellow fever and Ebola have shifted priorities in the affected countries.

“Because of the shifted priorities, Covid-19 vaccination coverage has stagnated in half of the African countries, while the number of doses administered monthly has declined by over 50 per cent between July and September,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said.

According to the analysis, the percentage of people with complete primary vaccination series (one dose for Johnson& Johnson and two doses for other vaccines) has barely budged in 27 out of 54 African countries in the past two months (August 17 –October 16).

“The end of Covid pandemic is within sight, but as long as Africa lags far behind the rest of the world in reaching widespread protection, there is a dangerous gap which the virus can exploit to come roaring back,” she said.

According to the findings, by September 23, million doses were given, 18 per cent less than the number registered in August, and 51 per cent less than the 47 million doses administered in July.

That number is also about one-third of the peak of the 63 million doses reached in February. However, there are signs of improvement this month, with 22 million doses given as of 16 October, representing 95 per cent of the total administered in September.

“Although Africa is far from reaching the year-end global target of protecting 70 per cent of the population, modest progress has been made in vaccinating high-risk population groups, particularly the elderly and health care workers,” Dr Matshidiso added.

The analysis also shows that as of 16 October, just 24 per cent of the continent’s population had completed their primary vaccination series compared with the coverage of 64 per cent at the global level.

Only countries

Liberia, Mauritius and Seychelles are the only countries that have  surpassed 70 per cent of people with full vaccination coverage. Rwanda is on the verge of achieving this milestone as well. Other small signs of progress are that the number of countries with less than 10 per cent of people completing their primary series has dropped from 26 in December 2021 to five currently.

“Despite these achievements, at the current pace of vaccination, Africa is expected to meet the global target of 70 per cent of people with complete primary vaccination series by April 2025,” she revealed.

Based on data from 31 countries, by 16 October, 40 per cent of African health workers had completed their primary series. This latest data uses country estimates of population size instead of previous figures that  used International Labour Organisation estimates of the health workforce. In 15 of these countries, more than 70 per cent of health workers have been fully vaccinated compared with 27 per cent at the beginning of the year.

Thirty-one per cent of older adults (between 50 and 65 years and older depending on country-set age limits) have been fully vaccinated according to data from 27 countries, an increase from 21 per cent in January 2022.

While difficult access to doses undermined vaccination efforts in 2021, these issues have been largely resolved with countries on average receiving 67 doses per 100 people compared with 34 doses per 100 people at the end of 2021 and 13 doses per 100 at the end of September 2021. The continent has received 936 million vaccine doses, 62 per cent of which came from the Covax facility.

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