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Vaccine supply inequality could extend Covid-19 to 2022

The inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the world could unnecessarily extend the Covid-19 pandemic to 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned Thursday.

The bulk of Covid-19 vaccines overall have been taken in high-income and upper-middle-income countries at the expense of the poor, the majority of them being in Africa.

More than 50 countries as at October 1, had still not reached the WHO’s target for 10 percent of their populations to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 by the end of September.

The majority of these countries are in Africa, where, according to the WHO, only 4.4 percent of people are fully vaccinated. 

Only 15 out of 54 countries in Africa have achieved the 10 percent target as half of the countries on the continent have vaccinated less than 2% of their population.

Some larger countries with big populations have fallen far short of this target. Egypt only has about 5 percent of its population fully vaccinated, with Ethiopia and Nigeria each less than 3 percent

Burundi and Eritrea on the other hand are yet to roll out vaccination programmes.

“I can tell you we’re not on track,” said a senior WHO leader, Dr Bruce, Aylward Thursday.

Dr Aylward is the senior advisor to the WHO director-general on organisational change.

 “We really need to speed it up or you know what? This pandemic is going to go on for a year longer than it needs to.”

Earlier on during the week, WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said many countries risked missing their year-end vaccination targets.

“Even more countries are at risk of missing the 40 percent vaccination target by the end of this year, and we are also off track to hit our other crucial targets of achieving a minimum testing rate of at least one per 1000 people per day; strengthening our global sequencing capacity; and ensuring all those who need it have access to medical oxygen, treatments and PPE,” said Ghebreyesus.

“For vaccines alone, we are facing a gap of at least 500 million doses through COVAX for all countries to reach at least 40 percent coverage by the end of the year.

Support for the ACT (Access to Covid-19 Tools) Accelerator is needed urgently if we are to achieve these targets and end the pandemic.”

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