Other Voices: Africa’s problem with COVID vaccines goes beyond supply

According to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 15% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.  As a result, the pandemic’s trajectory across the continent remains uncertain, according to Dr. John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC.

“With low vaccination rates, we run the risk of being hit by new variants that may severely impact the effectiveness of vaccines globally and limit people’s lives once again.”, says Dr. Nkengasong in his guest essay for the New York Times.

Dr. Nkengasong said he recently requested that supplies of COVID-19 vaccinations to Africa be temporarily postponed until the third and fourth quarters of the year, because Africa’s most important need now is distributing the vaccines they have to consenting individuals.

“Every country is unique in what it needs to fight COVID-19, but logistical challenges and issues of vaccine hesitancy — similar to those seen in other places around the world — have momentarily outstripped shortages for the continent. We do not want vaccines to go to waste. Now that supply is not the primary challenge, we need to focus on better delivery,” says Dr. Nkengasong.

Dr. Nkengasong emphasizes that Africa has a solid plan in place to combat COVID-19, and that long-awaited vaccine contribution is vital to that aim: “Just because right now the greatest challenge is vaccine demand and delivery, as opposed to supply, does not mean there are not important ways for the global community to assist our efforts to protect Africans. But we need the world to better understand Africa’s health needs.”

Read the full opinon piece here.

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