Africa closing COVID vaccination gap: WHO

Africa closing COVID vaccination gap: WHO
A vaccinator giving the oral cholera vaccine. [Photo credit: WHO]

African countries have registered a remarkable increase in vaccination to protect the vulnerable population and arrest the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates in its latest report that the majority of African countries have inoculated nearly 50 per cent of their frontline health workers and vulnerable elderly populations.

This is significant progress compared to last year’s performance, where the inoculation stood at less than 40 per cent for both groups. WHO recommends a ‘‘90 per cent vaccination coverage for health workers and 80 per cent for people over 60.’’

‘‘The data from June 2022 from 31 countries reporting on COVID-19 vaccinations of high-risk groups shows a significant increase compared with the end of December 2021 when only 33% of health workers and 10% of seniors were fully vaccinated,’’ states WHO.

Nonetheless, according to the health organisation, most African countries are still struggling to register higher numbers of vaccination. For instance, only Mauritius and Seychelles have been able to jab 70 per cent of their population as Rwanda follows in closely.

With the continent’s youthful population estimated to be at 45 per cent, most governments have prioritised the vaccination exercise to target vulnerable groups such as health workers and the elderly. The WHO says that this approach is impressive, especially where there is limited access to the vaccine.

It states: ‘‘WHO is recommending to countries with low vaccination coverage to focus on high-priority groups – health workers, older adults and people with comorbidities.

The continent’s coverage of people over 18 years is estimated at 34%, significantly higher than the 18% full coverage in the general population. Nine countries have fully vaccinated more than 70% of their adult population, while 21 have reached more than 40% of adults.’’

South Sudan rolled out vaccination programs with Johnson and Johnson as well as AstraZeneca. The exercise took place in various government health facilities in Juba last year before shifting to target the populations in the state.