WHO calls for fair access to vaccines for Africans

By AT editor - 11 April 2021 at 12:22 pm
WHO calls for fair access to vaccines for Africans

Top African health officials are calling for more equitable vaccine distribution, noting that less than 2 percent of the vaccines delivered to date have been for people on the continent and most of that is in just 10 nations.

“Although progress is being made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line. Limited stocks and supply bottlenecks are putting COVID-19 vaccines out of reach of many people in this region,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

“Fair access to vaccines must be a reality if we are to collectively make a dent on this pandemic.”

Moeti’s remarks came during the latest WHO briefing on vaccines for Africa. She was joined by Moroccan health minister Dr. Abdelhakim Yahyane and other officials from UNICEF and WHO AFRO.

By the numbers, there are 45 African nations that have vaccines, with 43 already giving doses to some 13 million people. The United States, by comparison, has 64.8 million people fully vaccinated, according to the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University.

The 10 African countries that have vaccinated the most have used at least two thirds of their supplies, with uncertainty moving forward on both acceptance of the vaccines and access because of safety concerns over the Astra Zeneca product. Africa relies heavily on the global COVAX initiative for vaccine doses that are now held up by India’s production changes and broader questions about Astra Zeneca vaccines.

WHO’s Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety concluded that the link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and complications with rare blood clots is “plausible but not yet confirmed.”

Africa’s overall cases have trended downward, but Kenya is experiencing a third wave and the epidemic is showing an upward trend in 14 other African countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Rwanda and Tunisia.

“Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination catch-up, and the gap is widening,” said Moeti. “While we acknowledge the immense burden placed by the global demand for vaccines, inequity can only worsen scarcity.

“More than a billion Africans remain on the margins of this historic march to overcome the pandemic.”

Image: WHOAFRO

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