Fewer than 1% of Africa’s population has been partially vaccinated, and health officials fear a devastating wave of COVID-19 cases, drastically increasing the coronavirus rate in Africa, could be possible.
Africa has, by far, the lowest COVID vaccination rate of any continent. Medical supplies are depleted, vaccines are scarce, and hospitals are having to turn away patients due to a lack of beds and oxygen supply.
At the same time, cases in Africa have been surging by more than 20% week-to-week, according to the World Health Organization. With this new third wave of cases, Africa has neared the first wave peak of more than 120,000 weekly cases recorded in July 2020.
COVID-19 cases rose to more than 116,500 from June 7-13, up from the previous week’s 91,000 cases. During the same week, deaths rose by nearly 15% to more than 2,200 in 36 African countries. This came after an entire month of progressively higher numbers that eventually pushed the continent over 5 million cases.
“Africa is in the midst of a full blown third wave. The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action. We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly COVID-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems. So public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate, and care for patients and to quickly trace their contacts,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a WHO press release.
Along with other factors, the new alpha, beta, and delta variants of the virus have contributed to a more contagious spread. The delta variant has been found in 14 African countries, and the alpha and beta variants have been reported in more than 25 African countries.
Africa’s vaccine rollout is slightly improving, though, with more than 5 million doses administered from June 13-June 17 (compared with around 3.5 million doses per week for the prior three weeks). Almost 12 million people are now fully vaccinated, but this is still less than 1% of Africa’s population.
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