Africa's COVID-19 trend stabilizes, vaccine push intensifies

Burkina Faso schoolchildren wearing masks
Burkina Faso schoolchildren wearing masks

© European Union, Olympia de Maismont / Flickr cc

The pace of COVID-19 activity in Africa has stabilized, but at a very high level, amid fresh calls to coordinate global efforts to funnel more of the world's vaccine supplies to African countries, which have among the world's lowest immunization coverage.

Africa's vaccine rollout gains steam

At a World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office briefing yesterday, Director Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, said Africa's third wave seems to be stabilizing, but cases are still high, with nearly 250,000 reported across the continent last week. The COVID-19 picture varies in different countries, with cases rising in 24 nations and deaths increasing in 8 locations.

On the vaccine front, doses given last week tripled compared with the previous week, which Moeti said is a promising development. "Many of these doses are from donations and sharing arrangements through COVAX. I would like to appreciate the Governments that have shared doses with African countries," she added.

Officials are still hopeful that the continent can reach the goal of 10% of the population vaccinated by the end of September. Currently, 2.47% of Africa's population is fully vaccinated, according to the Africa Center for Disease Control dashboard.

In a related development, a multilateral group met recently for the third time with African leaders, including the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), in ongoing efforts to scale up vaccine supplies for African and other low- and middle-income countries.

In a statement from the WHO, the groups said the vaccine inequity crisis is driving dangerous differences in COVID-19 survival rates and economic recovery, and urgent cooperation is needed from vaccine manufacturers, vaccine-producing countries, and countries that already have high coverage.

They called on countries and groups to take several steps to free up more vaccine supplies for Africa, including countries swapping delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT, companies prioritizing contracts with COVAX and AVAT, and dose-sharing countries fulfilling their vaccine donation pledges.

The group also said it is tackling persistent vaccine delivery and trade issues and mobilizing financing solutions.

More global headlines

  • India's daily cases have risen sharply over the past few days, with Kerala and Maharashtra states as the main hot spots, according to Reuters. The country's government has asked the two states to impose night curfews to drive down cases. The rise in Kerala, which accounted for nearly 60% of India's latest cases, recently celebrated Onam, an annual Hindu festival that features cultural events and family gatherings.

  • A WHO document seen by Reuters said the agency's pandemic preparedness program has plans to distribute 100 million doses of China's Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccine by the end of September as part of COVAX efforts, mainly to Africa and Asia.

  • New Zealand again reported a record daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 70 new infections reported, according to the New Zealand Herald.

  • Myanmar signaled that it will vaccinate Muslim Rohingya people against COVID-19, Reuters reported, citing a spokesman for the country's military junta. Thousands of Rohingya, a persecuted group, have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, where officials had earlier launched vaccination in the Cox's Bazar refugee area.

  • The global total today climbed to 214,897,802 cases, with at least 4,475,679 deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.

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