Third COVID-19 wave looms on Africa amid severe vaccine crunch

WHO has raised alarming concerns over surgingcases of COVID-19 cases across African nations

Africa is witnessing a sharp surge in Covid-19 infections amid an acute shortage of vaccine doses and necessary medical supplies. On Thursday, the World Health Organisation said that the Covid-19 positivity rate has dramatically increased across African nations over the past few days.

While South Africa saw over 60 percent rise in new infections, hospitals in Uganda are running short of medical resources. The UN health body also pointed out that globally vaccine shipments to African countries have come to a “near halt”.

The situation has deteriorated after the emergence of new Coronavirus variants across various countries, including South Africa, the UK, and India. Raising concerns over the threat of a third Coronavirus wave in Africa, the WHO has called for intensifying vaccination efforts across the region.

“It’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of COVID-19,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

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In a statement, Dr. Moeti noted that only 31 million (1.86 percent)people out of the total continental population of about 1.4 billion have been given at least one dose of the vaccine, while only seven million have received both doses. Nearly 20 African nations have exhausted the majority of their supply of vaccine doses they received through WHO’s Covax facility.

Taking cognisance of the looming crisis, the WHO highlighted thatthe continent would be requiring at least 20 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses over the next six weeks in order to administer the second doses to high-priority groups who have received their first jabs.

As of June 7, South Africa has administered first vaccine doses to only 1.9 percent (a little over 1 million) of the total population of the country. In order to inoculate its entire 40 million population, the country’s health sector would require an average of 120,000 doses on a daily basis. The country is yet to receive 31 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson. With 40 African countries relying on the Covax facility for Covid-19 vaccines, unsteady supply has posed a major challenge to the continent’s vaccination efforts.