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Countries Struggling to Reach High-Risk Populations in COVID-19 Vaccinations

44 African countries have received vaccines through the COVAX Facility or through donations and bilateral agreements, and 32 of them have begun vaccinations. The COVAX Facility has supplied nearly 16 million doses to 28 countries since launching deliveries to the continent in February. But the continent has so far administered 7.7 million vaccine doses mainly to high-risk population groups.
Africa urgently needs more COVID-19 vaccine supplies as deliveries begin to slow down and initial batches are nearly exhausted in some countries, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.

While the COVAX deliveries have enabled many African countries to roll out vaccinations, a critical proportion of the population targeted in the initial phase of the vaccination campaign may remain un-vaccinated for months due to global supply chain constraints. WHO warns that  In 10 African countries, vaccines have not yet even arrived.

"The slow down in vaccine supply could prolong the painful journey to end this pandemic for millions of people in Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. Dr Moeti added that while some high-income countries are seeking to vaccinate their entire populations, many in Africa are struggling to sufficiently cover even their high-risk groups.

44 African countries have received vaccines through the COVAX Facility or through donations and bilateral agreements, and 32 of them have begun vaccinations. The COVAX Facility has supplied nearly 16 million doses to 28 countries since launching deliveries to the continent in February. But the continent has so far administered 7.7 million vaccine doses mainly to high-risk population groups.

Countries have made some progress in reaching high-risk populations targeted in the initial phase of the rollout, including health workers, elderly people and people with conditions such as diabetes, which make them particularly vulnerable.

For instance, Ghana which was the first to receive doses through COVAX  has administered over 470,000 doses, while Rwanda has delivered 345,000 doses. In Uganda, a total of 32,000 have been vaccinated according to Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng.

But these numbers per Country are far below what countries had planned to have reached by end of March because of the few stocks that they received. Moeti says while this is happening here, some countries have stocked vaccines to cater for their entire populations including those that are not at significant risk of infection.

However, COVID-19 vaccine demand is placing an enormous strain on the global manufacturing system which has an annual capacity of 3 to 5 billion vaccine doses. Up to 14 billion COVID-19 vaccines may be needed globally this year. COVAX alone aims to deliver enough vaccine doses to immunize at least 20% of Africa’s population in 2021.

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