GENEVA, Switzerland – Only 15 of 54 African countries have fully vaccinated 10% of their populations against Covid-19, and many frontline health workers remain at risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) on Thursday.
They called for accelerated distribution of doses to those at risk on the continent amid what the WHO described as “opaque delivery schedules” and “shortages” in vaccine rollout in Africa.
The WHO had called for at least 10% of health workers in each country to be vaccinated by September 30, a target achieved by nearly 90% of high-income countries, the UN health agency said.
Half of the 52 African countries that have received Covid-19 vaccines have only 2% or less of their population fully vaccinated, the WHO regional office in Brazzaville said in a statement.
The Seychelles and Mauritius have over 60% of their population fully vaccinated, Morocco 48% and Tunisia, Comoros and Cape Verde over 20%.
Most of the African countries that have reached the goal have relatively small populations and 40 percent are small island developing states.
Zimbabwe has nearly 2.3 million inhabitants, or 15% of its 15 million inhabitants, fully vaccinated.
Howard Catton, managing director of the Geneva-based ICN, told Reuters he had analyzed data from 39 African countries.
It showed that around a third of health workers were still waiting for their first dose of vaccine and only around 10% were fully immunized.
“Despite the promises, we are not seeing the delivery and it is a health and human rights crisis,” he said. “Today, nurses and health workers still go to work knowing they are at higher risk but not vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, some wealthy countries are already giving boosters and vaccines to young people, he said.
“You know, we just saw a billionaire send a healthcare worker into space, but here on Earth we have millions of healthcare workers still waiting to be vaccinated. They shouldn’t have to wish one star on a vaccine, they should be prioritized,” Catton said.
Richard Mihigo, WHO Development Program Coordinator for Immunization and Vaccines in Africa, said in a briefing: “What the data shows us – in the 39 countries where we have been able to collect this information, 8 % of all doses administered in these 39 countries were administered to healthcare workers.
Some healthcare workers in remote rural areas have not been contacted, he said.