Africa needs 70% of population vaccinated by end of 2022, achieved 6.8% so far: Report

Zeinab El-Gundy , Wednesday 8 Dec 2021

Only 6.8 percent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus pandemic, which is a long way from the 70 percent the continent is aiming to reach by the end of 2022, a research report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF) said on Monday.

South Africa
People are processed before receiving their jab against COVID-19 Friday Dec. 3, 2021 at the Orange Farm, South Africa. AP

This comes while 66.8 percent of the G7 countries’ population is currently fully vaccinated against the pandemic, according to the Sudanese London-based foundation.

The research report titled ‘COVID-19 in Africa: A Challenging Road to Recovery’ that was issued in a webinar held on Monday and attended by Ahram Online added that Africa accounts for just 2.9 percent of the 7.6 billion vaccines doses administrated globally. 

The COVID-19 vaccine challenge in Africa is the latest and most urgent issue to overcome in order to achieve economic or social recovery in the continent, the report said.

African countries, including Egypt, have frequently called out the inequality of vaccine distribution, as several world powers — including the US, France, and China — declared they would support African countries by donating vaccines through distribution mechanisms like the COVAX and AVATT initiatives.

Rich countries donating coronavirus vaccines must give “better quality” doses rather than ones that are about to expire, a COVAX chief said on 1 December, according to AFP.

The COVAX scheme had hoped to deliver two billion doses in 2021 but has so far only delivered 563 million doses in total to 144 participating economies.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that global economic recovery is at risk if vaccines are not equitably manufactured, scaled up, and distributed.

“There is no real recovery from the consequences of COVID-19 when only 6.8 percent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated,” the report said.

When it comes to vaccination efforts, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco have reached the WHO 2021 year-end target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of their people, according to the report.

Tunisia and Cabe Verde are projected to hit the target in the upcoming weeks.

Egypt’s government set a goal of vaccinating 40 percent of the population in the country by the end of 2021 as well, administering 48 million doses so far.

COVID-19 vaccine production in Africa

While Africa accounts for 25 percent of the global vaccine demand, it relies on imports for 99 percent of its routine vaccine needs, according to the MIF.

Egypt started to locally produce the Chinese Sinovac vaccine in the summer of 2021 after an agreement signed by the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) and Sinovac.

The Ministry of Health announced earlier that the country was planning to manufacture 40 million doses of the Chinese vaccine by the end of the year at VACSERA’s factories with an eye on exporting to African markets.

According to the African Union’s (AU) Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Egypt tops Africa when it comes to its stock of coronavirus vaccines.

Egypt has been supplied with around 98.4 million doses of different coronavirus vaccines, whether ready-made or in the form of raw materials, since the start of the pandemic, Acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said on Monday.

To date, Egypt’s vaccination campaign has included the use of the imported version of the Sinovac vaccine along with the Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Sinopharm vaccines.

Lack of public data access

According to the MIF, another challenge facing the health policies in Africa is the lack of public data access.

“Due to data limitation, COVID-19 cases and death could be greatly underestimated,” the report said, adding that the low vaccination rates in the continent might be far worse than reported as the unregistered population remains unaccounted for and is at risk of being left by vaccination campaigns.

Cases reported by the AU’s member states represent 3.4 percent of all cases and 4.4 percent of all deaths reported globally, the report said.

Africa’s CDC has reported 8,737,269 COVID-19 cases, including 223,967 deaths and 8,133,130 recoveries in the continent as of 5 December.

“According to the WHO, 86 percent of COVID-19 cases in Africa go undetected,” the report said.

Reports from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation found estimated deaths on the continent to be six times as high as reported.

“Only 10 percent of coronavirus related deaths are registered in Africa, compared to 98 percent in Europe,” the report added.

In Egypt, health officials have previously stated that the real number of cases in Egypt is higher than the announced official numbers released by the health ministry.

“From the ten countries with the highest number of new cases per million over a 7-day moving average, four are in Northern Africa: Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, and Tunisia,” the report commented on the recent cases of the coronavirus.

Africa’s healthcare availability

Based on the World Bank’s info, the MIF highlighted another challenge in its report facing African countries: Inaccessible and expensive healthcare.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) ensures that all citizens can access the quality health services they need without facing financial adversity from paying out of pocket for healthcare.

“High and out-of-pocket expenses and insufficient public investments mean that few Africans have access to affordable healthcare,” the report said, adding that only 10 African countries hosting less than 9 percent of the continent’s population provide their citizens with free and universal healthcare in 2021.

“Egypt provides free but not universal healthcare services,” the report highlighted.

Egypt has been applying its new universal health insurance system since 2019 starting with Port Said, it was later extended to Ismailiya and Luxor, with further planned expansions to other governorates

The system aims to provide high-quality medical services to the public without discrimination at affordable costs for the entire family.

According to the World Bank’s numbers in 2018, Egypt was among the top African countries with the highest out-of-pocket health expenditures.

In April 2001, the African Union’s countries made a pledge to set a target of allocating at least 15 percent of their annual budget to improve the health sector in a declaration commonly known as the Abuja Declaration.

“As of 2018, the Abuja Declaration target of spending 15 percent of annual government budgets on health was only met in 7 countries at least once since 2012,” the MIF’s report said.

According to Egypt’s government’s statements, the budget for the healthcare sector is increasing annually. For example, the health sector’s budget in FY2021/2022 is 16.2 percent higher than the year before due to the challenges posed by the coronavirus, as the budget allocated for health will be EGP 108.8 billion, compared to EGP 93.5 billion in 2020/2021.

Nevertheless, NGOs like the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) hinted that despite this, the increase does not exceed 1.5 percent of the local GDP in the budget, which is half of the 3 percent determined by the Egyptian constitution.

In its research that is based on the numbers released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the MIF found that the average of African expenditures on the COVID-19 response in relation to the GDP, excluding health, was less than half (2.4 percent) of the global average (4.8 percent).

Egypt had the highest score in Africa when it comes to International Health Regulations (IHR) in 2019 despite Africa as a continent performing worse than all other world regions in terms of IHR, the report said.

IHR are an international legal instrument that covers measures for preventing the transnational spread of infectious diseases.

The MIF foundation stated that most African countries are unprepared for future pandemics based on their experience with COVID-19. Nevertheless, the early and coordinated response across the continent based on previous experience with pandemics managed to temper the lack of specialised equipment and highly qualified staff.

Draining Africa from its doctors

According to the report, Africa is currently witnessing a drainage of physicians who leave their countries to work in the West due to economic reasons, a matter which impacts the standard of healthcare in African countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the process, as the US, Canada, Germany, and France in the past two years issued calls for foreign medical professionals, especially those working on COVID-19, targeting African medical professionals. 

“Twenty percent of African-born physicians currently work in high-income countries,” the report stated, adding that 10 percent of all doctors in the UK come from Africa.

“In 2015, the number of African-trained international medical graduates practicing in the United States reached 13,584, a 27.1 percent increase from 2005’s number, which is equivalent to about one African-educated physician migrating to the US per day between 2005-2015,” the report read, stating that of this number, 86.0 percent were trained in Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa.

When it comes to Egypt, the report highlights that 8,600 Egyptian doctors were accepted into the US following a call for applications launched by the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs in March 2020.

Aside from insights and findings of COVID-19 in Africa, the report also included insights from the 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance over ten years (2010-2019) across 54 African countries.

The report is currently available for download free of charge on the MIF’s website.

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