Africa needs sixfold rollout boost to hit COVID vaccine target

Officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said yesterday that countries need to increase their vaccination rate six times to reach the June target of immunizing 70% of the population.

Fine-tuning rollout strategies

Currently, only 11% of Africa's population is fully immunized, and though supplies are increasing, some countries are still struggling with rollout. So far, Africa has received 587 million doses, including 96 million in the month of January alone.

At a briefing, Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, director of the WHO African regional office, said the world finally heard its calls, and Africa is now accessing vaccines, raising hopes. "However, a dependable pipeline must go hand in hand with operational funding to move doses out of depots and into people’s arms," she said. "WHO and partners are working with countries to urgently fix operational challenges including supporting health workers to speed up vaccine delivery, save lives and beat back this pandemic."

Some African countries, including Mauritius and Seychelles, have already met the 70% uptake target, and seven of the region's nations have reached the 40% level. Of 40 other countries, uptakes range from less than 2% to nearly 10%.

The WHO said it and partners such as UNICEF are resetting their programs to better coordinate and speed up immunization drives and to ensure that vaccine shipments are used before they expire.

Mohammed Omer Mukhier, with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Africa office, said much more is needed to gain community trust. "When communities are in the driver’s seat, they become vital contributors to finding solutions to the outbreaks of diseases," he said.

More global headlines

  • Oxford University today announced that it is part of a £6 million multigroup effort to rapidly identify drugs that can be repurposed to treat COVID-19. In a statement, the university said the project will initially screen 138 drugs and assess combinations that may boost their antiviral action.

  • Japan today reported record daily COVID-19 cases, as well as record numbers of serious illnesses, since the start of the pandemic, according to Reuters.

  • In Europe, Austria's upper house approved a mandatory vaccination law, which hasn't yet been signed into law. Meanwhile, Spain is the latest country in Europe to signal that it will begin relaxing its COVID measures.

  • The global total today climbed to 389,947,603 cases, and 5,720,295 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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