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Covid: Only 11% fully jabbed in Africa, inequity in focus

🔴 The emergence of Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2, first reported from South Africa earlier this week, has brought spotlight on inequalities in accessing Covid-19 vaccines.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Pune |
Updated: November 28, 2021 6:05:28 pm
On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, currently circulating in South Africa, as a ‘variant of concern’. It also named it Omicron. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

A little more than a quarter of health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 till now. That is roughly the coverage of first doses in the entire population of South Africa as well.

The emergence of Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2, first reported from South Africa earlier this week, has brought spotlight on inequalities in accessing Covid-19 vaccines. While the developed world struck advance deals with vaccine manufacturers to secure billions of doses even before the vaccines were approved, poorer countries have been dependent primarily on inadequate and erratic supplies from Covax facility set up by the World Health Organization and some other international agencies.

Nowhere is the inequality starker than in Africa. Just about 11 per cent of the population in the continent has had at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 7.2 per cent is fully vaccinated till now, according to information on Our World In Data website. Europe and North America, on the other hand, have got more than 50 per cent of their population fully vaccinated, while the first dose coverage is over 60 per cent. In Asia, close to 50 per cent people are fully vaccinated now.

A recent report from WHO said less than 10 per cent nations in Africa – or just about five countries — are likely to achieve their year-end target of vaccinating 40 per cent of their populations. Most African countries missed a September target to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of their populations. A total of 227 million vaccine doses have been administered in Africa till now, according to WHO. That is less than 20 per cent of doses administered in India. Over 900 million doses have been administered in Europe so far, and more than 450 million in the United States.

The problem is not with shortage of vaccines but with unequal distribution. “We have enough vaccines that, if they were distributed appropriately, can protect those who are most at risk for severe disease and our frontline workers,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for Covid-19 at WHO, was recently quoted as saying.

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