Only 2% of Africans have received a Covid-19 vaccine – WHO

A health official at Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, prepares to inoculate with Sinopharm vaccine, March 11, 2021. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
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Cape Town – For a continent that accounts for around 17% of the global population, it is alarming that only 2% of Africans have received a Covid-19 says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional director for Africa.

Moeti spoke during a webinar to commemorate World Health Day, with various African health leaders.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has really shone a light on the inequalities between countries amid shortages of essential supplies. African countries have been pushed to the back of the queue and it always brings up the question if we really have a good idea how bad the situation is in Africa,” she said.

In order to turn the tide on the pandemic, Moeti said all people should have access to vaccines.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said South Africa’s vaccine acquisition plan seeks to avoid the notion of vaccine nationalism.

“Inevitably, the consequent slower roll-out of vaccines in lower-income countries will negatively impact on economic prosperity and development in those countries. However, the greatest lesson that vaccine nationalism has taught us is the critical urgency for Africa to develop, manufacture and distribute its own biotechnology,” he said.

Moeti said the WHO applauds the efforts of South Africa in establishing the National Health Insurance (NHI) as a key component of health reform.

“Although the pandemic has slowed the progress in legislation and roll-out of the NHI, the Covid-19 response itself has also accentuated the need to improve access to essential health services to every single South African, irrespective of socio-economic status, ethnicity or place of residence,” she said.

Mkhize said universal health coverage agenda is critical for South Africa and has been further highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The implementation of National Health Insurance is seen as a critical intervention that will assist in restructuring the core components of the health system.”

“There are especially important lessons that we can draw from our experiences with the pandemic to-date, and if we take these to heart and appropriately contextualise them, we can use them to leverage our health system reform programmes and build more resilient healthcare systems, capable of absorbing the next public health threat that may come our way, while protecting the people from the devastating outcomes we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.