YAOUNDE, Cameroon 

The World Health Organization (WHO) Africa office on Thursday made a call for equitable COVID-19 vaccine access to widen reach in Africa.

Speaking at a virtual press conference, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, underlined that Africa urgently needs more vaccines as deliveries have begun to slow and initial batches were nearly exhausted in some countries.

“A slowdown in vaccine supply could prolong the painful journey to end this pandemic for millions of people in Africa,” said Moeti, stressing that acquiring jabs “must not be a competition. Fair access will benefit all and not just some of us.”

“While some high-income countries are seeking to vaccinate their entire populations, many in Africa are struggling to sufficiently cover even their high-risk groups,” he added.

So far, 44 African countries have received vaccines through the COVAX facility or through donations and bilateral agreements and 32 of them have begun vaccinations, according to the WHO.

“Vaccines remain our surest way of beating this pandemic,” said Richard Mihigo, the immunization and vaccines development program coordinator for the WHO Africa.

“It’s unfair that some high-income countries are looking to vaccinate their entire populations, while others — including most in our region — are struggling to reach a significant proportion of at-risk populations,” he added.

There are over 4.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent, with more than 3.7 million recoveries and 110,860 deaths.

During the past four weeks, deaths in Africa have dropped by 45% compared with the previous four weeks. But, the case-fatality ratio for cumulative deaths on the continent is 2.7%, which is still higher than the global figure of 2.2%, according to the WHO.

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