Nearly seven million people in Africa have received the COVAX-funded AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This feat, according to the global health agency, was achieved in just two weeks after the vaccine was delivered to African countries.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, commended governments in Africa for the progress made in vaccinating its citizens against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Although Africa received vaccines late and in limited quantities, a lot of ground has been covered in a short space of time. This is due to the continent’s vast experience in mass vaccination campaigns and the determination of its leaders and people to effectively curb Covid-19,” she said at a virtual press conference facilitated by APO.
Comparing the vaccination in Africa with countries in other regions that accessed the vaccines much earlier, Dr. Moeti said the initial rollout phase in some African countries has reached a far higher number of people.
Already, 30 out of the 38 African countries which have received a total of over 25 million Covid-19 vaccines have started vaccination campaigns.
Ghana has administered over 420,000 doses and covered more than 60 percent of the targeted population in the first phase in the Greater Accra region, the hardest hit by the pandemic.
In the first nine days, it is estimated the country delivered doses to around 90 per cent of health workers.
In Morocco, more than 5.6 million vaccinations have taken place, while in Angola, vaccines have reached more than 49,000 people, including 28,000 health workers in the past week.
She said to ensure the most impact, initial vaccine doses are being limited to priority population groups including health workers, older people and people with health conditions placing them at higher risk of severe Covid-19 illness.
Dr. Moeti however noted that while the vaccine rollout is going well, there is an urgent need for more doses to be made available to maintain the pace of the vaccination exercise as countries like Ghana, Rwanda and other countries are on the brink of running dry.
“Countries are clocking an impressive vaccination pace, but we must ensure this speed doesn’t slow down to a crawl,” she said, adding that: “Additional supplies are urgently required to narrow the gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.”
A few Africa countries have halted or postponed their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, following reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in some people who had received the vaccine in some European countries.
WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety said the suspension is with regard to one specific batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been distributed to Africa.
It also indicated that it was carefully assessing the reports on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to gain full understanding and would communicate its findings.
Based on what was currently known, the committee maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweighed its risks and recommended that vaccinations continue.
More than four million Covid-19 cases have been reported in Africa, with 43,000 new cases in the past week and 108,000 lives lost.
In the past month, new infections have decreased by 41 percent compared with the previous month, however, there is an upward trend in 12 countries including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya and Guinea (where an outbreak of Ebola is also ongoing).
Jamila Akweley Okertchiri