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It is time for Africa to fo­cus on get­ting vac­cines in arms

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Rates of vaccination against COVID-19 are still disappointingly low in Africa, with just around 8 percent of the continent’s population fully vaccinated against the disease. And this average masks large differences between countries. Mauritius and Morocco, for example, already fully vaccinated 72 and 62 percent of their populations respectively, but in countries like Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, vaccination rates remain well under one percent.

Since the emergence of the more transmissible Omicron variant, the number of COVID-19 infections is on the rise, but the number of deaths still remain relatively low on the continent. Nevertheless, given the known weaknesses of African health sectors, including the limited number of intensive care beds, there are fears that if the Omicron variant continues its rapid spread – or worse, a more transmissible and deadly variant emerges – Africa could find itself in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis. Thus, front-loading vaccination appears to be the only available option to prevent a new disaster on the continent.

Unfortunately, due to several interconnected factors, Africa is not expected to reach the global target of 70 percent vaccination set for mid-2022 until the end of 2024, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Beyond its consequences for the population of the continent, that miss will likely have large and negative spillover effects on the rest of the world in terms of the emergence of new, potentially more harmful variants.

The main reason behind low vaccination rates in Africa has been the low supply. Indeed, high-income countries have been hoarding vaccines, most recently for third “booster” doses, leaving low-income countries, including........

© Al Jazeera

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