The World Health Organisation (WHO) says nearly seven million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Africa.
WHO Regional Office for Africa disclosed this in a statement issued from its headquarters in Brazzaville, Congo, on Thursday.
It stated that the vaccines had been administered after months of waiting on the side-lines for vaccines and many of the first wave of countries had started vaccinating high-risk groups.
The statement stated that Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, spoke at a virtual press conference on COVID-19 in the regional office headquarters.
The UN health agency said countries had accessed vaccines through the COVAX Facility, bilateral deals and donations.
“Altogether, 38 African countries have received more than 25 million COVID-19 vaccines and 30 have started vaccination campaigns.
“Through the COVAX initiative – which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and WHO in partnership with UNICEF – more than 16 million vaccine doses have so far been shipped to 27 countries.’’
The statement quoted Moeti as saying, “Although Africa received vaccines late and in limited quantities, a lot of ground has been covered in a short space of time.
“This is due to the continent’s vast experience in mass vaccination campaigns and the determination of its leaders and people to effectively curb COVID-19.
“Compared with countries in other regions that accessed vaccines much earlier, the initial rollout phase in some African countries has reached a far higher number of people”.
According to the statement, just two weeks after receiving COVAX-funded AstraZeneca vaccines, Ghana has administered more than 420,000 doses.
It stated that the country had covered over 60 per cent of the targeted population in the first phase in the Greater Accra region – the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“In the first nine days, it is estimated the country delivered doses to around 90 per cent of health workers.
“In Morocco, more than 5.6 million vaccinations have taken place in the past seven weeks, while in Angola, vaccines have reached over 49,000 people, including more than 28,000 health workers in the past week’’.
To ensure the most impact, the global health agency stated that initial vaccine doses were being limited to priority population groups including health workers.
It stated that they were being limited to population groups including older people and people with health conditions placing them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
“While the rollout is going well, there is an urgent need for more doses as Ghana, Rwanda and other countries are on the brink of running dry’’.
The statement further quoted Moeti as saying “Countries are clocking an impressive vaccination pace, but we must ensure this speed doesn’t slow down to a crawl.
“Additional supplies are urgently required to narrow the gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated”.
Meanwhile, a few countries in Africa have halted or postponed their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, following the suspension of the vaccine by some countries in Europe.
This precautionary measure is based on reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in people who had received the vaccine.
The suspension is regarding one specific batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been distributed to Africa.