With slow COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and new variants making inroads, the risk of a new wave of infections in Africa remains high, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa warned on Thursday.
WHO said Africa-bound COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India have been delayed for the foreseeable future.
“The tragedy in India does not have to happen here in Africa, but we must all be on the highest possible alert,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a press briefing.
India has been battling a devastating second wave of the pandemic, with the country recording an exponential rise in daily cases. Many experts say the spread of India’s double mutant variant may be the reason for the massive spike.
Delays and shortages of vaccine supplies are driving African countries to slip further behind the rest of the world in the coronavirus vaccine rollout and Africa now accounts for only 1% of the vaccines administered worldwide, down from 2% a few weeks ago, WHO said in a statement.
“While we call for vaccine equity, Africa must also knuckle down and make the best of what we have. We must get all the doses we have into people’s arms,” Moeti said.
“It’s a race against time and the virus. Given the limited supply, we recommend that countries prioritize giving the first dose to as many high-risk people as possible in the shortest amount of time,” she added.
She also praised a recent decision by the US to support a temporary waiver on patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, which could mark a game-changer for Africa.