While the vaccination campaigns in rich countries continue, things go a lot less smoothly in poorer parts of the world. In Africa, for example, where only seven countries are expected to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) goal of having at least 10 per cent of the population vaccinated against the coronavirus by September.
The seven countries are Comoros (an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, northwest of Madagascar), Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, Morocco, the archipelago of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa, the Seychelles and Zimbabwe. Six other countries can meet the threshold at their current vaccination rate, but they must get enough vaccines. The latter will not be obvious, according to experts: this concerns eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda and Tunisia.
On Thursday, the WHO reported that only 2 per cent of the African population had been vaccinated. South of the Sahara – the largest part of Africa – that is even just 1 per cent. Reaching the 10 per cent target in each country would require an additional 225 million doses, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who heads the Africa department at WHO. He estimates that nine out of ten African countries will not make it.
However, the stock of vaccines is not large. Many countries have already indicated that they are through deliveries of COVAX, an international initiative that wants to make corona vaccines available to everyone. However, only 35.9 million vaccines have been used, mainly in countries such as Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia, Morocco and Nigeria. No vaccine has yet been put in place in Burundi, Eritrea and Tanzania. Chad and Togo started it last week.
Vaccination is very slow in some countries. Twenty countries have not even administered half the available doses. In twelve countries, there is even a risk of 10 per cent of the doses being expired.
Many countries also have to deal with outbreaks of the virus. According to official figures, more than five million confirmed infections and 133,000 corona deaths have already been reported on the continent, but there is often very little testing. The number of infections rose by 26 per cent last week, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of deaths was an increase of 2 per cent.
Significantly more infections are reported in South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and Zambia, among others. In Uganda, another lockdown has been declared. The British (alpha), South African (beta) and Indian variant (delta) have already been detected there.
The good news is US President Joe Biden’s promise to donate 500 million Pfizer vaccines to poorer countries, including Africa. Those will have to wait a while. Two hundred million doses have yet to be delivered this year, the rest early next year.