By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI – Only five African countries will meet the target of fully vaccinating 40% of their populations against COVID-19 unless the pace of inoculations accelerates across the continent, World Health Organization said on Thursday.
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout may be slowed by an “imminent shortfall” of up to 2.2 billion auto-disposable syringes globally needed to administer the jab and routine immunisations barring an increase in their manufacturing, WHO Africa said.
At present there is no global stockpile of the specialised syringes which are in high demand, and they will remain in short supply at least through the first quarter of 2022.
WHO Africa said in a statement that Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa have already experienced delays in receiving syringes.
“Early next year COVID-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyse progress. Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa’s director.
So far, the continent has fully vaccinated 77 million people, just 6% of its population.
About 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have arrived on the continent this month, almost double September’s arrivals, WHO Africa said.
“However, at the current pace, Africa still faces a 275 million shortfall of COVID-19 vaccines against the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40% of its people,” it said.
As of Thursday, Africa had close 8.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 217,000 deaths, WHO Africa said.