By Haruna Gimba
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that COVID-19 vaccination coverage has stagnated in half of the African countries.
This is as the number of doses administered monthly dropped by over 50 per cent between July and September, a World Health Organisation analysis has found.
According to the analysis, the percentage of people with complete primary vaccination series has barely shifted from a spot in 27 out of 54 African countries in the past two months (August 17 – October 16, 2022).
In September, 23 million doses were given, 18 per cent less than the number registered in August, and 51 per cent less than the 47 million doses administered in July.
The number of doses provided in September is also about one-third of the peak of the 63 million doses reached in February 2022.
Despite this setback, WHO noted that modest progress has been made in vaccinating high-risk population groups, particularly the elderly.
WHO, however, said with 22 million doses given as of October 16, 2022, representing 95 per cent of the total administered in September, this could be a sign of improvement in the month.
As of October 16, 2022, just 24 per cent of the continent’s population had completed their primary vaccination series compared with the coverage of 64 per cent at the global level.
Furthermore, Liberia has joined Mauritius and Seychelles as one of three countries to surpass full coverage by reaching 70 per cent of people with full vaccination. Rwanda is on the verge of achieving this milestone as well, WHO revealed.
The WHO also predicted that despite these achievements and with the current pace of vaccination, “Africa is expected to meet the global target of 70 per cent of people with complete primary vaccination series by April 2025.”
Despite the end of the COVID-19 pandemic being within sight, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti warned that as long as Africa lags behind the rest of the world in reaching widespread protection, “there is a dangerous gap that the virus can exploit to come roaring back,” she warned.
She added that the biggest priority in COVID-19 vaccination is to shield the most vulnerable populations from the worst effects of the condition by boosting the coverage among health workers, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
It added that based on data from 31 African countries, by 16 October 2022, 40 per cent of African health workers had completed their primary series. In 15 of these countries, more than 70 per cent of health workers have been fully vaccinated compared with 27 per cent at the beginning of the year.
Moeti lamented that people have shunned the COVID-19 vaccination despite the intensive efforts put in to ensure that Africans now receive a steady supply of the vaccine.
This, WHO said, could be attributed to vaccine hesitancy and a low-risk perception of the pandemic, noting that the recent decline in cases is also dampening uptake.
The world health body, therefore, reiterated its commitment to assist countries to intensify vaccination efforts by supporting countries to assess the preparedness for vaccination campaigns at provincial and district levels, track vaccination among priority groups, carry out high-level advocacy to boost uptake, help countries integrate COVID-19 vaccines in other planned mass vaccination campaigns as well as deploy surge missions to countries to improve quality of vaccination drives.