Only 1% of Africa’s 1.3 billion population have been given two doses of COVID vaccine – now, the Delta variant is sweeping through countries highly vulnerable to hospitalisation and death
When it comes to vaccination, several countries remain far, far behind. The COVID pandemic shed light on global inequalities, whether between individual groups in a country, or between countries themselves.
We spoke with Dr Mary Stephen, Public Health Expert at the World Health Organization African Region. She commented: “It’s really difficult, especially in emergencies like this, to take care of patients and then you see your colleagues continue to die, this kills peoples’ spirit.”
Less than 1% are protected against COVID-19
As the UK slowly approaches the 70% vaccination threshold, countries that cannot afford the vaccine remain dazzlingly low – with the whole of Africa at less than 1% double-jabbed. Access to COVID-19 vaccines has been a huge issue throughout the pandemic, with South Africa and India combining forces to propose a temporary change in global law that would allow them to manufacture their own, generic vaccines.
Some countries point to the existence of the COVAX scheme, a balancing programme created by the WHO to pool vaccines for Global South countries. However, deliveries to Africa have been stunted by an outbreak that led to AstraZeneca doses being used within India itself, where they were being manfactured.
Now, COVAX is projected to deliver only 200 million doses to Africa – just enough to vaccinate 7% of the population. After October, more doses should become available.
That is a long time to wait – especially when the virus is constantly evolving to be more transmissible.
EU stands against relaxing vaccine manufacturing law
The intellectual property law that stops countries from creating vaccines remains solidly in place – despite the change in heart shown by the United States in May. Previously, the US was against the temporary waiver of the law. Now, it is putting pressure on the EU to follow suit and support the suspension.
President von der Leyen, responding to pressure from Washington, said: “In the short run, however, we call upon all vaccine producing countries to allow exports and to avoid measures that disrupt supply chains.”
Third wave of virus is on the horizon
According to The Lancet, most countries in Africa will be hit with a heavy third wave of COVID-19. The Delta variant has become dominant, which is even more powerful and transmissible than most others – even lessening the efficacy of most vaccines by atleast 10%.
In a paper on the issue, The Lancet describes the lack of vaccine access as “morally reprehensible”. The author further explains: “It is estimated that for every US$1 spent on a COVID-19 vaccine dose, $5 is needed for delivery.”
“It is estimated that for every US$1 spent on a COVID-19 vaccine dose, $5 is needed for delivery.”
Even though 400 million Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccines have been promised for 2022 to Africa, the question is how will the infrastructure be poised to deliver doses which are urgently needed right now?
Dr Stephen strongly acknowledged gratitude for incoming doses via COVAX, but further commented: “Concerning access to vaccines, the inequity remains, as you can see millions of doses have been administered but the majority of them are in high-income countries.”