The World Health Organization warned Thursday that Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent, is set to miss the global goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10% of every country’s population against COVID-19 by the end of September.
Forty-two of Africa’s 54 nations — nearly 80% — will fall short of that target, set in May by the World Health Assembly, if the current pace of vaccine deliveries and vaccinations holds, according to the WHO.
“With less than a month to go, this looming goal must concentrate minds in Africa and globally,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement Thursday. “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 that still face a grave threat from COVID-19.”
With more COVID-19 vaccines expected to be delivered across Africa from the global vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX as well as the African Union, the WHO said there could be enough doses to meet the 10% target. Nine African countries have already reached the goal and, at the current pace, three more are set to do so. Two more could meet it if they speed up vaccinations, according to the WHO.
But while many African nations have sped up vaccinations as shipments increased, the WHO said that 26 countries have used less than half of their doses.
So far, some 39 million people — just 3% of Africa’s population — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In comparison, 57% of people are fully vaccinated in the European Union and 52% in the United States, according to the WHO.
“The inequity is deeply disturbing,” Moeti said. “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.”