Africa risks missing out on vaccination target amid supply cutback
A medical staff delivers COVID-19 vaccines to Ngor Clinic in Dakar, Senegal, on April 2, 2021. /CFP

A medical staff delivers COVID-19 vaccines to Ngor Clinic in Dakar, Senegal, on April 2, 2021. /CFP

Africa faces a shortfall of almost 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines required to hit its year-end target of fully vaccinating 40% of its population, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The shortfall comes as the COVAX facility slashed planned deliveries of vaccines to African nations for this year by around 150 million.

The cutback means the WHO vaccine sharing facility will only be able to deliver 470 million doses this year, enough to inoculate 17 percent of the continent's population.

An additional 470 million doses are needed to reach the end-year target even if all planned shipments via COVAX are delivered.

"Export bans and vaccine hoarding have a chokehold on vaccine supplies to Africa. As long as rich countries lock COVAX out of the market, Africa will miss its vaccination goals," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

"The huge gap in vaccine equity is not closing anywhere near fast enough. It is time for vaccine manufacturing countries to open the gates and help protect those facing the greatest risk," she added.

Only two percent of the more than 5.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered globally have been given in Africa.

According to the WHO, the European Union and the United Kingdom have vaccinated over 60% of their people and high-income countries have administered 48 times more doses per person than low-income nations.

"The staggering inequity and severe lag in shipments of vaccines threatens to turn areas in Africa with low vaccination rates into breeding grounds for vaccine-resistant variants. This could end up sending the whole world back to square one," said Dr Moeti.

The U.N. agency is pushing to have every country vaccinate at least 40% of its population by the end of this year, and hopes to help ensure that 70% of the world's population is by the middle of next year.

By Thursday, Africa had recorded 8,096,504 COVID-19 infections with 204,821 deaths.

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