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Africa to miss crucial vaccination goal

2021-09-06  Staff Reporter

Africa to miss crucial vaccination goal

Namibia is one of the countries in Africa that will miss the urgent global goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10% of the population against Covid-19 by the end of September.

Namibia plus 41 of Africa’s 54 nations - nearly 80% - are set to miss the target if the current pace of vaccine deliveries and vaccinations hold, new data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows. 

By 4 September 2021, Namibia had administered 220 395 people with the first dose and 126 306 with the second dose of the available Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccinations.

Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula recently said “our target is to vaccinate over 600 000 of our population by the end of September 2021.” WHO’s representative to Namibia Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses said the country needs to vaccinate at least 10 000 people per day to reach the target of vaccinating approximately 60% of its population by December 2021.

While the country has increased vaccination points, added Sputnik V to the list of available vaccinations and started an awareness campaign, hesitancy remains rife among Namibians of all walks of life.

Both professionals and people in rural areas are still hesitant to get the jab, citing trust, debunked theories and complaining about the distance to health facilities.

“We don’t know what to believe anymore, because we are told once you take the vaccine, you are dying – and if you don’t, you are still going to die. We are confused,” were some of the common sentiments shared by residents of Oshikoto in remote areas. New Era has reported in recent weeks about widespread reluctance among teachers, journalists and even the medical fraternity.

Recently, we reported that only 40 out of 440 Oshikoto teachers have had the jab. 

Citing health conditions and time constraints while strangely encouraging the public to get vaccinated, 60% of journalists have not done so. A whopping 43% of respondents to a survey done by New Era among Namibian journalists said they do not trust the vaccine.

Surprisingly, only 21.7% of healthcare workers have had the jab, according to the health ministry.

Shangula recently said “misinformation and disinformation that was perpetuated via social media and other platforms also played a role that resulted in vaccine hesitancy and also in the fact that some infected persons resorted to home remedies and only sought medical services when it was already late.”

So far, nine African countries, including South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, have already reached the global target set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body. At the current pace, three more African countries are set to meet the target. Two more could meet it if they speed up vaccinations. 

“With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally. Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back, and we urgently need more vaccines. But as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people who still face a grave threat from Covid-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

Almost 21 million Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Africa via the COVAX Facility in August, an amount equal to the previous four months combined. With more vaccines expected from COVAX and the African Union by the end of September, Africa could see enough doses delivered to meet the 10% target.

While many African countries have sped up Covid-19 vaccinations as vaccine shipments ramped up in August, 26 countries have used less than half of their Covid-19 vaccines.

Around just 3% of Africa’s population are fully vaccinated. In comparison, 52% of people are fully vaccinated in the United States of America. The European Union last week said 70% of its adults are fully vaccinated.

“The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just 2% of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa. Yet, recent rises in vaccine shipments and commitments shows that a fairer, more just global distribution of vaccines looks possible,” added Moeti.

Countries must continue to address operational gaps and continually improve, adapt and refine their Covid-19 vaccination campaigns. Of the 30 countries that have submitted data to the WHO on operational readiness, one in two have not conducted intra-action reviews, which are key to assessing and finetuning progress. One in three countries have not updated their National Vaccine Deployment Plans, which instruct all Covid-19 vaccination actions in each country.

Covid-19 cases are declining slightly in Africa, but remain stubbornly high. A rising number of new cases in Central, East and West Africa pushed case numbers up to nearly 215 000 in the week which ended on 29 August. Twenty-five countries - over 45% of African countries - are reporting high or fast-rising case numbers. Over 5 500 deaths were reported in the week that ended on 29 August.

“Although Africa’s third wave peaked in July, the decline in new cases is at a glacial pace - far slower than in previous waves. The pandemic is still raging in Africa, and we must not let our guard down. Every hour, 26 Africans die of Covid-19.” 

“Mask wearing, physical distancing and regular hand washing will help keep you safe from all variants,” said Moeti during a virtual press conference on 2 September.

2021-09-06  Staff Reporter

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