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07.05.2021 Europe

Slow vaccine rollout puts Africa in 'race against time', WHO warns

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
LISTEN MAY 7, 2021
REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

World Health Organization has warned of a new wave of Covid-19 infections in Africa amid a slow vaccine rollout and a spike in variants.

The global health body said vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India had been delayed for the foreseeable future.

"The tragedy in India does not have to happen here in Africa, but we must all be on the highest possible alert," WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti told journalists Thursday.

Africa's vaccination rate is the lowest in the world. The continent accounts for 1 percent of vaccine doses administered globally, down from 2 percent a few weeks ago.

There are now nearly 4.6 million coronavirus infections in Africa, with some 123,000 deaths.

'Race against time'
"It's a race against time and the virus. Given the limited supply, we recommend that countries prioritise giving the first dose to as many high-risk people as possible in the shortest amount of time," Moeti said.

While there had been a slight decrease in case numbers after a six-week plateau, Moeti said that in nine countries – including Angola, Cabo Verde, Cameroon and Eritrea - there is an "upward trend".

The WHO warned that new coronavirus variants risked unleashing a "third wave" on the continent.

"While we call for vaccine equity, Africa must also knuckle down and make the best of what we have,” Moeti said.

“We must get all the doses we have into people's arms.”  

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