South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will receive the vaccination against Johnson and Johnson coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on February 17, 2021 at the Khayelitsha Hospital near Cape Town, South Africa.
Gianluigi Guercia | Swimming pool | Reuters
Some countries in Africa are seeing increasingly worrying spikes in Covid cases and the numbers do not reflect the true scale of the outbreak there, World Health Organization officials said Wednesday.
Weekly Covid cases rose 44% to 95,000, while the death toll across Africa rose 20% to 1,400 from the previous week. Meanwhile, incidences have declined in every other region of the world, including India, which is currently battling the world’s worst outbreak.
“Although the numbers in Africa itself… don’t represent a large percentage of the world’s cases, we know that diagnosis in Africa is not as intense. So when you see the trend reversal, the trend is worrying. “Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Emergency Health Program, said on Wednesday.
“And when you look at the percentage of vaccines worldwide that go to Africa, that trend is even more worrying,” said Ryan.
An increase in cases 18 months after the pandemic started worries health officials and highlights the shortcomings in funding for vaccine equality initiatives. WHO officials say more testing is needed in the region.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director for Covid-19, said some people say it is the beginning of a third peak in some African countries.
“We don’t know how many cases have been reported so far. We assume that we will miss many, many cases,” said Van Kerkhove.
The WHO announced at the end of May that Africa would need 20 million vaccine doses for patients’ second dose by mid-July to ensure adequate protection against the virus.
The lack of funding for the vaccine-sharing campaigns left Africa behind to purchase the life-saving vaccines. “The lowest number of vaccines in the world is currently in Africa,” said Ryan.
Many countries have pledged to distribute millions of doses around the world, but WHO officials say those doses need to get to low-income countries immediately and without delay. The continent has so far received less than 2% of the vaccine doses available worldwide.
About 60 vaccines were delivered for every 100 people in a high-income country, according to Ryan, and one vaccine was delivered for every 100 people in a low-income country. “This is a brutal reality, and today people are dying who shouldn’t die because they’re not protected with vaccines,” he said.
A study recently published in The Lancet showed death rates and certain risk factors in several African countries. In addition to the lack of access to vaccines, the lack of access to basic resources such as hospital beds and oxygen has been identified as a driving factor for mortality rates in African countries.
“We have these tools on hand, we just don’t use them, and they’re not in the right hands around the world and I think we all need to think about that,” said Van Kerkhove.