Health officials say a slight overall dip in COVID cases on the African continent is welcome, but it doesn’t reflect the reality in many nations that are seeing a surge.
New case numbers were down by 1.8 percent during the week ending July 18, according to numbers cited Friday by the World Health Organization. But South Africa accounts for 37 percent of cases and when it’s removed from the mix, other countries collectively are seeing a nine-week surge.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the African region’s WHO director, said the “third wave” surge is now at a crossroads. At least 13 countries have seen a rise in the demand for oxygen to treat patients because of the surge.
“Let us be under no illusions,” said Moeti. “Africa’s third wave is absolutely not over. The small step forward offers hope and inspiration but must not mask the big picture for Africa.”
Most Africans are still waiting for access to COVID vaccines, including 25 million doses donated by the United States. Some 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will begin moving in August and many are destined for the African continent, according to a U.S. Department of State briefing on Wednesday.
At the same time, Nigeria ran out of vaccines and has awaited new doses. Botswana and Namibia are encouraging their citizens to take whatever vaccine is available and assuring them that all the vaccines are approved for COVID prevention.
There’s a new deal to “finish” the manufacture of Pfizer vaccines in South Africa, but leaders continue to press for a full transfer of the technologies that will allow Africans to make their own vaccines without relying on Europe for the early stages of the process.
“Currently there are at least five African countries that manufacture vaccines at different levels,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa CDC. “But the African continent, a continent of 1.2 billion people and 55 member states, still imports 99 percent of its vaccines and consumes 25 percent of global vaccine supply.
“You cannot guarantee the health security of your people by importing 99 percent of your vaccines.”