The World Health Organization has warned health officials that a third wave of COVID-19 infections could impact the entire continent of Africa.
“In the last two weeks, Africa recorded a 20% increase in cases compared with the previous fortnight. The pandemic is trending upwards in 14 countries and in the past week alone, eight countries witnessed an abrupt rise of over 30% in cases,” a statement from WHO reads.
For the last year, Africa has been hit incredibly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite accounting for only 2.9% of COVID-19 cases, the continent has made up 3.7% of COVID-19 deaths. Health officials and researchers worry that these numbers could worsen as nations across the continent brace for the winter.
“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising. Our priority is clear – it’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of COVID-19,” Matshidiso Moeti of the World Health Organization added.
A contributing factor to the rise in COVID-19 cases has been the lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines. While 24% of the world's population has been vaccinated against the virus, WHO reports that the majority of countries in Africa have vaccinated less than 5% of their citizens. Adding on to the problem, nearly 20 countries on the continent have already used two-thirds of their vaccination supply.
Meanwhile, privileged nations like the United States have reportedly had excess vaccinations from time to time. President Joe Biden recently rolled out a plan to distribute vaccines to foreign countries. Of the 25 million vaccines set to be sent around the world, seven million are going to the continent of Asia and six million are going to the Caribbean and South America. However, only five million are going to the continent of Africa.
“While many countries outside Africa have now vaccinated their high-priority groups and are able to even consider vaccinating their children, African countries are unable to even follow up with second doses for high-risk groups," Moeti continued.
"I’m urging countries that have reached a significant vaccination coverage to release doses and keep the most vulnerable Africans out of critical care."
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