By Asmau Ahmad
Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine uptake rose by 15 per cent between January and February, the World Health Organisation for Africa (WHO-Afirca) in Brazzaville said in a statement.
WHO said the increased was because several countries embarked on mass vaccination drives to expand coverage and protect populations against the adverse health impacts of the virus.
According to the United Nations health agency, around 62 million doses were administered across the continent in February up from 54 million in January.
The WHO Africa said the uptick was driven mainly by vaccination campaigns in populous countries that include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.
“To boost the COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Africa, WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and partners are supporting mass vaccination drives in at least 10 priority countries to reach 100 million people by the end of April 2022.
“A mass vaccination campaign in Ethiopia, for instance, pushed up the number of doses administered by 136 per cent between 23 January and 6 March 2022.
“In Kenya, a two-week mass vaccination drive in early February saw an average of 200, 000 people vaccinated daily compared with 70, 000 per day before the campaign. Tanzania, while not yet carrying out mass vaccinations, witnessed an increase of 152 per cent in vaccine uptake between January and February,” it said.
Speaking on the vaccination uptake, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said the vaccination drives have ignited a positive momentum against the pandemic in Africa.
“With every additional person vaccinated, the weaker the power of COVID-19 over our lives becomes.
“While this progress is welcome, the pace of vaccination across the continent needs to increase nine-fold if we are to reach our target of vaccinating 70 percent of the population by June 2022,” Dr. Moeti said.
To date, WHO said, the continent has fully vaccinated just 15 per cent of the adult population.
“Of the 714 million doses received so far, 435 million or 61 percent has been administered. 15 countries are yet to get 10 per cent of their population fully vaccinated.
“21 African countries have fully vaccinated between 10 per cent and 19 per cent of their populations. Five countries have fully vaccinated between 40 per cent and 69 per cent of their populations. Only Mauritius and Seychelles have surpassed 70 per cent vaccination coverage.
“Early lessons learned from the multi-partner support being provided to countries show that diversifying vaccination delivery strategies including mass vaccination campaigns and strong community engagement enable countries to reach large numbers of people quickly.
“Political commitment and strong leadership at all levels are key to producing positive results. Effective coordination and sufficient funding to support operational costs are pivotal to the success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
“As Africa strives to step up vaccine uptake, it is witnessing a sustained decline in COVID-19 cases. Reported cases have fallen for nine straight weeks since the peak of the fourth pandemic wave in early January. The continent reported a 10 per cent decline in cases in the week ending on 13 March compared with the week before. Deaths declined by 37 per cent over the same period,” it stated.
Dr. Moeti noted that although the continent is reporting fewer and fewer cases, this does not signal the end of the pandemic.
“We must maximize on this opportunity to protect as many people as possible with the vaccine and close all avenues for a COVID-19 resurgence.
“As COVID-19 risk perception among populations decreases and preventive measures are relaxed, our challenge is to ensure that countries continue scaling up vaccine uptake,” she said.