BRAZZAVILLE — Africa’s third wave of COVID-19 pandemic is at a crossroads, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday at an online press conference.
As the rate of new cases fell by less than two percent over the past week, driven by a sharp drop in South Africa, 21 countries are experiencing a resurgence, three more than last week, warned Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
“Let’s be under no illusions, Africa’s third wave is absolutely not over. The small step forward offers hope and inspiration but must not mask the big picture for Africa,” she noted.
Africa continues to lag behind in terms of the COVID-19 vaccination, Moeti said, explaining that only about 1.5 percent of the continent’s population are fully vaccinated so far.
“African countries must go all out and speed up their vaccine rollouts by 5 to 6 times if they are to get all these doses into arms and fully vaccinate the most vulnerable 10 percent of their people by the end of September,” she said.
“Vaccines are key to saving lives and blunting the pandemic, but we must remain focused on controlling the disease until vaccination coverage is increased,” Moeti said.
Moeti noted that a gradual easing of vaccine supply constraints in the continent will boost efforts to tame a third wave of COVID-19 infections fuelled by variants and easing of containment measures.
She said that about 60 million doses are set to arrive in Africa in the coming weeks including donations from several countries and purchases through the COVAX facility. Moeti said that over half a billion doses procured through the COVAX facility are expected to arrive in Africa this year, adding that the continent must vaccinate 21 million doses every week in order to reach the 10 percent target by September.
Moeti said African countries should prioritize upgrading cold chain infrastructure, training of health workers and community education in order to boost vaccine uptake.
She said WHO has partnered with the continent’s ministries of health to prepare adequately for a seamless roll-out of the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination.