Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Director, John Nkengasong, has raised concerns over what he described as slow circulation of coronavirus vaccines across the continent, saying Africa was winning its fight against the pandemic as a third virus wave sweeps across the black nations.
He added that with the continuous struggle by countries to access enough vaccines for their populations, the continent was slowly losing the battle against the deadly disease, particularly with the outbreak of the infection’s third wave.
He said that with the effect of third-wave on the unprepared nations, he was more worried about getting vaccines in time, regardless of where the doses came from. The Africa CDC boss expressed regret that despite agreement by COVAX programme co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fair distribution of vaccines, the treaty has been shunned by rich countries and failed to meet the needs of the poorest.
Speaking on Thursday during a weekly online briefing, Nkengasong said that at least 20 countries were in the middle of the third wave, with Zambia, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo among those whose health facilities were being overwhelmed.
“The third wave has come with a severity that most countries were not prepared for. So the third wave is extremely brutal. Let me put it bluntly, we are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus so it does not really matter to me whether the vaccines are from COVAX or anywhere. All we need is rapid access to vaccines,” he said.
Also, in a separate briefing, WHO’s Africa Head, Matshidiso Moeti, raised concerns that Africa’s third wave was spreading faster and hitting the continent harder.
“The latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” she said. Moeti added that cases are outpacing vaccinations and that the continent desperately and urgently needed COVID-19 drugs. “We need a sprint, not a saunter, to rapidly protect those facing the biggest risks,” she argued.
Moeti also urged countries not to restrict Africans from travelling based on their vaccination status alone, saying only four of the eight vaccines listed by WHO for emergency use are recognized by the European Medicines Agency for the passport system.
“Let’s not add injury to injustice. Africans must not face more restrictions because they are unable to access vaccines that are only available elsewhere.”
The COVAX programme’s initial lofty ambitions to act as a clearinghouse for the world’s vaccines, collecting from manufacturers in the most developed countries and quickly distributing to those in the most urgent need, have fallen flat.
About 1.12% people have been fully vaccinated on a continent that has recorded 5.2 million infections, Nkengasong said. Globally, around 2.7 billion doses have been administered, of which just under 1.5% have been administered on the continent, according to the WHO.