Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, says that Africa has marked the most dire pandemic week ever, surpassing the second wave peak during the last seven days which ended on Sunday, July 4, 2021.
Moeti said though as the COVID-19 cases increase, there are signs of progress on vaccine deliveries to the continent.
The WHO chief spoke during a virtual press conference on Thursday, July 8, 2021 facilitated by APO Group. She noted that the Delta variant has been detected in 10 countries, adding that 16 African countries are now in resurgence, with an addition of Malawi and Senegal this week.
COVID-19 cases have risen consecutively for seven weeks since the beginning of the third wave on Monday, May 3, 2021.
On Sunday, 4 July 2021, more than 251,000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on the continent, amounting to a 20 per cent increase over the previous week and a 12 per cent jump from the January peak.
“Africa has just marked the most dire pandemic week ever. But the worst is yet to come as the third wave continues to gain speed, the end to this sudden rise is still weeks away. Cases are doubling now every 18 days,” Dr Moeti said.
“We can still break the chain of transmission by testing, isolating contacts and cases and following key public health measures.”
She disclosed that the current upsurge comes as vaccination rates remain low in Africa.
But there are hopeful signs, she added. “After almost grinding to a halt in May and early June, vaccine deliveries from the COVAX Facility are gathering. In the past two weeks, more than 1.6 million doses were delivered to Africa through COVAX.”
“More than 20 million Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to arrive from the United States through COVAX, in coordination with the African Union.”
Forty-nine countries have been notified of the allocations they will receive. Other significant donations from Norway and Sweden are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
“COVAX partners are working to distribute dose-sharing pledges and procurement deals with manufacturers to ensure that the most vulnerable Africans get COVID-19 vaccination quickly; these efforts are paying off,” Dr Moeti said.
“Our appeals for ‘we first and not me first’ are finally turning talk into action. But the deliveries can’t come soon because the third wave looms across the continent.”
So far, 66 million doses have been delivered to Africa, including 40 million doses secured through bilateral deals, 25 million COVAX-supplied doses and 800,000 doses supplied by the African Union African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
The 50 million doses administered to date account for just 1.6 per cent of doses administered globally. Sixteen million, or less than two per cent of Africans are now fully vaccinated.
Nineteen countries have used more than 80 per cent of their COVAX-supplied doses, while 31 countries have used more than 50 per cent.
“With larger COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to arrive in July and August, African countries must use this time to prepare to expand the roll-out, countries can do this by planning to expand vaccination sites, sensitizing communities to boost vaccine confidence and demand, and ensuring that operational funding is ready when it is needed,” said Dr Moeti.
WHO has been conducting reviews of the first phase of the roll-out on countries so that they can implement the lessons learned during this important second phase. A series of WHO webinars have facilitated intra-country learning from countries that have had successful roll-outs, such as Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Ghana and Rwanda.
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