WHO Africa: COVID-19 booster shots in US make 'mockery' of vaccine equity
The Africa director for the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Thursday that rich countries are hoarding coronavirus vaccines and making a mockery of vaccine equity.
Matshidiso Moeti made the warning after US health officials on Wednesday announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans amid the surging delta variant and signs that vaccines’ effectiveness is slipping.
following rich countries’ decisions to roll out COVID-19 booster shots for their citizens to help against the Delta variant.
The booster shots in the US come as less than 2% of the population in the African continent of 1.3 billion people is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Moeti noted that the latest resurgence in cases across Africa is leveling off and more vaccine doses are finally arriving on the continent, but “Africa is encountering headwinds” as rich countries like the United States decide to roll out booster shots.
The situation in Africa remains “very fragile” as the more infectious delta variant is now dominant in most of the continent’s 54 countries, she said.
More than 7.3 million cases, including more than 186,000 deaths, have been confirmed across the continent and health systems are straining to provide medical oxygen and other care.
Moeti noted the “already highly inequitable situation” globally in vaccine supply and urged that the emphasis instead be placed on making progress in vaccinating people in Africa, whose countries lag far behind much of the world in access and coverage.
She pointed out that rich countries have on average administered more than 103 vaccine doses per 100 people, while in Africa it’s just six.
Earlier this week the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called it “unconscionable” that some countries are now offering booster shots “while so many people remain unprotected.”
Leaders in Africa are now racing against time to ensure the continent manufactures its own pharmaceuticals to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how Africa lacks capabilities and capacity to manufacture its own pharmaceutical products, including coronavirus vaccines.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently said his country will be hosting a technology transfer hub for coronavirus vaccines in the first step towards Africa producing its own vaccines in the future.
Like any crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic could represent an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a better future.
There are currently fewer than 10 African manufacturers that produce vaccines in Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
The construction of a plant to produce COVID-19 vaccines is expected to begin later this year in Senegal, and the facility should produce 25 million doses per month by the end of 2022, expanding vaccine access in West Africa.