The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa region chief says only five African countries – less than 10 percent of the continent’s nations – are on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 40 percent of their populations by the end of the year.
WHO Africa says Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco have already met the 40-percent – goal established during the WHO-sponsored World Health Assembly in May. At the current pace two other countries, Tunisia and Cabo Verde will likely reach the goal as well.
In a virtual news briefing Thursday, WHO Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti said for other African nations to have a chance to meet the goal, they will need to receive 30 million vaccine doses a week – nearly double the current 17 million they are receiving from all sources.
Adding to the vaccine shortage, Moeti said the region is facing the looming threat of a syringe shortage. She said the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) predicts a global shortage of around two billion of the auto-disposable syringes needed for COVID-19 vaccine and routine immunization.
The WHO Africa chief said some African countries, such as Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa, have already experienced delays in receiving syringes and unless drastic measures are taken to boost syringe production, the continent could face a crisis.
Moeti said the shortages include the 0.3ml auto-disposable syringes used for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination. She warned there is no global stockpile of the specialized syringes, which differ from the 0.5ml syringes used for other types of COVID-19 vaccine and routine vaccination.
The market for 0.3ml syringes is tight and extremely competitive. As such, they are in short supply and will remain so through at least the first quarter of next year.
WHO Africa says the COVAX Facility is working to address the threat by securing deals with syringe manufacturers, and through better planning to avoid vaccine deliveries outpacing the supply of syringes.