By Blessing Bature, Abuja
The World Health Organization, WHO, has said that only 18.7 percent of the African population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, explaining that the continent is lagging woefully behind the global average of 58 percent.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti who disclosed this in a statement to mark African Vaccination Week, disclosed that there are currently 10 COVID-19 vaccines available through the COVAX Facility, with more in the research and development pipeline.
He said, “Although 480 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Africa to date, making it the biggest vaccine rollout in the history of the continent, only 18.7% of the African population is fully vaccinated – lagging woefully behind the global average of 58%.”
He explained that every year WHO marks African Vaccination Week which provides the opportunity to showcase the importance of vaccines in all our lives, and how they protect us, young and old, against more than 25 vaccine-preventable diseases.
He said, “This year’s theme, “Long Life for All”, highlights the life-saving potential of vaccines for everyone, everywhere. Yet, in Africa, tens of millions of people are still missing out on some, or all, their scheduled immunizations against diseases that have long been eradicated by vaccines.
“As we work to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination efforts, it is critical that we don’t ignore the urgent need to also strengthen routine immunization efforts. Since 2020, routine immunization has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 containment measures, leading to tens of millions of infants in Africa missing out on essential childhood vaccinations. These include the Diphtheria, Tetanus toxoid and Pertussis (whooping cough)-containing vaccine, as well as the measles vaccine”.
He said WHO, together with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, World Bank, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has identified 20 priority countries in the WHO African Region for intensified support. Multi-partner country support teams are currently on the ground helping countries with technical and financial resources to ramp up overall and high-priority group COVID-19 vaccination coverage.