The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, says there are over 3.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent.
WHO disclosed on its dashboard that there have been more than 2.8 million recoveries and 82,000 deaths, cumulatively.
The UN health agency also said on its website that Africa needed timely access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to combat the virus.
It stated that while the development and approval of safe and effective vaccines less than a year after the emergence of COVID-19 is a stunning achievement, Africa is lagging behind.
“Africa is in danger of being left behind as countries in other regions strike bilateral deals, driving up prices.
“As of early this week, 40 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in 50 mostly high-income countries.
“However, in Africa, Guinea is the sole low-income nation to provide vaccines and to date, these have only been administered to 25 people.
“Seychelles, which is a high-income country, is the only one on the continent to start a national vaccination campaign,’’ it said.
The statement quoted Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, as saying, “we first, not me first, is the only way to end the pandemic.
“Vaccine hoarding will only prolong the ordeal and delay Africa’s recovery. It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe.
“Health workers and vulnerable people in Africa need urgent access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”
According to the statement, the COVAX Facility – which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and WHO – has secured two billion doses of vaccine from five producers, with options for over one billion more doses.
The statement also quoted Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director, Country Programmes, GAVI, as saying, “COVAX is on track to start delivering vaccine doses and begin ensuring global access to vaccines.
“This massive international undertaking has been made possible thanks to donations, work towards dose-sharing deals and deals with manufacturers that have brought us to almost two billion doses secured. We look forward to rollout in the coming weeks.
“In Africa, the coalition has committed to vaccinating at least 20 per cent of the population by the end of 2021 by providing a maximum of 600 million doses based on two doses per individual disbursed in phases.”
WHO stated that an initial 30 million doses were expected to start arriving in countries by March with the aim of covering three per cent of the general population.
It stated that healthcare workers and other priority groups would be considered first and then expanding to cover additional vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.