Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Nine In 10 African Nations Set To Miss Urgent COVID Vaccination Goal


Nine in 10 African nations look set to miss the
September target of vaccinating 10 per cent of their
populations against COVID-19, the World Health Organization
(WHO),
said
on Thursday.

At 32 million doses, Africa
accounts for less than one per cent of the more than 2.1
billion doses administered globally. Just two per cent of
the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received
one dose, and only 9.4 million Africans are fully
vaccinated.

‘Do or die’ for
doses

“It’s do or die on dose sharing for
Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for
Africa.

The WHO’s reminder that 225 million doses of
vaccine are needed urgently on the continent comes as coronavirus
infections increased there for the third consecutive
week.

Africa’s 54 countries have registered nearly
five million COVID-19
infections to date and numbers increased by nearly 20 per
cent – to more than 88 000 – in the week ending 6
June.

Third wave looms

“As we close in on
five million cases and a third wave in Africa looms, many of
our most vulnerable people remain dangerously exposed to
COVID-19”, warned Dr Moeti.

“Vaccines have been
proven to prevent cases and deaths, so countries that can,
must urgently share COVID-19 vaccines.”

According to
WHO’s latest situation update, the pandemic “is trending
upwards in 10 African countries”. Four nations have seen a
30 per cent increase in cases in the past seven days,
compared with the previous week.

Most of the new cases
were in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia and
over half were in nine southern African
countries.

Vaccines have become “increasingly
scarce”, the UN health agency said, adding that at the
current rate of delivery, only seven African nations will
meet the goal of immunizing one in 10 people by
September.

European contrast

The development
came as the WHO announced
on Thursday that for the first time in Europe since last
August, deaths from COVID-19 had fallen below 10,000 in a
week.

In a regular update, the UN health agency noted
that cases, hospitalizations and deaths have decreased in
the region for two consecutive months.

A total of
368,000 new cases were reported in the last seven days,
which is a fifth of the weekly cases reported during
Europe’s recent peak in April this year, said Dr. Hans
Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

He noted that
the European Region had seen 55 million confirmed cases of
COVID-19 and 1.2 million deaths, which is around a third of
the global caseload.

Vaccine roll-out

More
than 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been
administered in the last six months, Dr Kluge noted, meaning
that 30 per cent of Europeans have received at least one
vaccine dose and 17 per cent have been fully
immunised.

“Vaccination coverage is far from
sufficient to protect the (European) region from a
resurgence”, the WHO official explained. “The distance
to go before reaching at least 80 per cent coverage of the
adult population, is still
considerable.”

Public health
measures and vaccination…is the way out of this pandemic
Dr.
Kluge

People over 70 were
800 times more at risk of severe disease or death from the
coronavirus, he continued, insisting that it was an
“urgent priority” to continue to protect the elderly,
people with comorbidities and frontline workers who
“remain unprotected” in a number of European
countries.

“With increasing social gatherings,
greater population mobility, and large festivals and sports
tournaments taking place in the coming days and weeks,
WHO-Europe calls for caution”, the WHO official
added.

Widespread community transmission continues,
Dr. Kluge continued, adding that the new Delta coronavirus
variant which shows increased transmissibility “is poised
to take hold”, while many vulnerable people over 60 remain
unprotected.

Highlighting the parallels with last
summer when infections rose in younger people before moving
into older age groups, the WHO official urged European
countries to avoid “a devastating resurgence, lockdowns
and loss of life” during the warmer months.

Public
health measures

“A combination of public health
measures and vaccination – not one or the other – is the
way out of this pandemic,” Dr Kluge insisted.

To
encourage people to protect themselves and others from
coronavirus, WHO-Europe and UNICEF Europe
and Central Asia have launched a joint campaign with some
key do’s and don’ts.

“If you choose to travel,
do it responsibly,” Dr. Kluge said. “Be conscious of the
risks. Apply common sense and don’t jeopardize hard-earned
gains. Remember: wash your hands frequently, keep a
distance, choose open settings and wear a mask. Avoid the
three Cs; settings that are ‘closed’, ‘confined’ or
‘crowded’, will put you at higher
risk.”

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