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Africa deaths underline jabs urgency

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-08-02 09:10

Donated doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech, as well as syringes, await unloading at an international airport in Zanzibar, Tanzania, on Saturday. XINHUA

With a rise in the death toll from COVID-19 over the past month, fueled by the more contagious Delta variant, public health experts in Africa are calling for stepped-up efforts from countries in the continent to speed up the distribution of vaccines.

The death toll from the virus in Africa rose by 17 percent last month compared with June, John Nkengasong, the director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday. There had been an average rise of 4 percent of new cases over the month, he said.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa exceeds 6.6 million, and nearly 170,000 people have died of the virus, the center said.

Fifty-eight million COVID-19 tests have been conducted in Africa, and the overall positivity rate stands at 11.2 percent, Nkengasong said.

He blamed the rise in the number of deaths over the past month on virus-spreading events such as recent looting in South Africa and the celebration of Eid al-Hajj.

He also blamed the Delta variant, the most contagious form of the coronavirus, which has spread across the globe in recent weeks. However, he said the Africa CDC was happy that some African countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have managed to limit the virus while allowing economic activity to go on.

With cases and deaths still rising in Africa, inoculation in the continent is expected to accelerate over the next few months following an influx of much-needed vaccines.

Doses from COVAX

The World Health Organization says nearly 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the United Nations-partnered COVAX initiative arrived in Africa last week, compared with just 245,000 for all of June.

The WHO said it hoped COVAX would ship 520 million doses to Africa by the end of this year, in addition to more shots from other sources, including deliveries from the African Union, which is expected to supply about 45 million doses by the end of the year.

Of all the doses, 32.5 million will come from Sinopharm and Sinovac, two major Chinese COVID-19 vaccine producers, said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

The doses were allocated to African countries last week and will be delivered as soon as countries are ready to receive them.

"With more vaccine candidates and manufacturing sites at the tail end of the review process for approval by WHO for Emergency Use Listing, the COVAX facility is confident, or hopeful, let me say, that it will meet its end of the bargain to deliver at least 520 million doses to Africa by end of 2021," Moeti said on Friday.

On Saturday the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar received a batch of the Sinovac vaccine and syringes donated by China, Xinhua News Agency reported.

This is the second batch of vaccines donated by China to Zanzibar after it made the first donation for frontline health workers about a month ago.

With hopes of more vaccines making their way to the continent, Moeti said African governments and health officials need to do more to encourage people to get the vaccines.

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