Only five nations on the African continent will fully inoculate 40% of their populations by the end of the year, and hit the WHO’s target, with an “imminent shortfall” of syringes likely to hinder further progress in 2022.

In a virtual press conference on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa region chiefs said only five countries were likely to hit the target of fully vaccinating 40% of their populations against Covid-19 by the end of the year, unless things drastically change. 

?LIVE: Join this @WHOAFRO press conference on the #COVID19 pandemic & vaccine rollout in #Africa. Dr @MoetiTshidi is joined by @RBCRwanda’s Dr Sabin Nsanzimana & @PATHtweets’s Sibusiso Hlatjwako.

In an accompanying press release, the WHO said the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco had already met the 40% goal set in May by the World Health Assembly. Just two more countries, Tunisia and Cabo Verde, will also hit the target at their current pace. The five nations represent less than 10% of the 54 nations on the continent. 

To date, just 77 million people on the continent have been vaccinated – some 6% of its total population. By comparison, over 70% of high-income countries have already vaccinated more than 40% of their people, the WHO stated.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa noted that planning must become much more granular in order to spot problems before they take place. She also discussed positive developments in nations such as Ghana, where vaccines were fully available to people across the country due to a broad deployment program. 

Dr Moeti also warned that a global shortage in syringes was likely to hold up further progress in the new year. “Early next year, Covid-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyze progress. Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, and fast. Countless African lives depend on it,” she stated.

Some nations, including Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa, have already experienced delays in receiving syringes. The WHO statement added that COVAX, an international initiative overseeing the provision of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, is looking to overcome the issue, partly through better planning and partly by not allowing vaccine shipments to outpace those of syringes.

In comparison to other continents, Africa has reported very few Covid-19 cases – only some 8.5 million have been confirmed. However, there is reason to believe that Covid-19 is more prevalent than data suggests. In May, it was reported that 5% of Democratic Republic of Congo citizens had died from the virus. 

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