WHO sounds the alarm: SA's rising cases 'account for a third of all new cases in Africa'

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A frontline worker gets a jab at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.
A frontline worker gets a jab at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.
Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle
  • The WHO has pleaded with nations with excess vaccines to donate them to Africa.
  • The Covax facility needs 20 million doses of AstraZeneca so people can get their second shots. 
  • A total of 200 million more doses are needed to vaccinate 10% of the continent's population by September. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa is pleading with nations that have excess supply of vaccines to donate them to the Covax facility.

Much of the continent's vaccine rollout has been put on hold because of a shortage of vaccines. 

The Covax facility hit a snag when the Serum Institute of India announced they would stop exporting the AstraZeneca vaccine to deal with its rising numbers.  

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On Thursday, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the continent needed 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca in the next six weeks to ensure that people who received the first dose, could receive the second dose. There is an eight to 12-week interval between doses. 

In addition, Africa needs another 200 million doses to vaccinate 10% of the continent by September 2021. 

To date, 28 million Covid-19 doses of different vaccines have been administered in Africa. This, according to Dr Nsenga Ngoy, the emergency response programme manager for the WHO Africa, is only two-percent of the global supply of vaccines. Worldwide, 1.5 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed.

"As supplies dry up, dose-sharing is an urgent, critical and short-term solution to ensuring that Africans at the greatest risk of Covid-19 get the much-needed protection. Africa needs vaccines now. Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope."

READ | Covid-19: Elderly turned away from vaccine sites in Eastern Cape as stock runs out

She said while the continent was not in a third wave as yet, a rise in the number of new positive cases was worrying, saying:

It's too soon to tell if Africa is on the cusp of a third wave. However, we know that cases are rising, and the clock is ticking, so we urgently appeal to countries that have vaccinated their high-risk groups to speed up the dose-sharing to fully protect the most vulnerable people.

Moeti said South Africa accounted for a third of all new cases, with two provinces already in the third wave.

She said they were worried that South Africa's rising caseload might spill over into neighbouring countries. "This makes the rapid rollout of vaccines even more urgent."

"We are appealing to countries that have already vaccinated their high-risk groups to significantly expand and bring forward their pledges to share doses. Dose-sharing is a critical and urgent short-term solution to ensuring Africans at greatest risk to Covid-19 get gold-standard protection."

France donated 31 000 doses of vaccines to Mauritania and was expected to send another 74 400 doses. The country also promised to share 500 000 doses with six African countries in the next few weeks.

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