A sign of possible perils ahead, cases of a subvariant of Omicron have spiked in recent weeks in South Africa, the continent’s worst-hit country, prompting authorities to warn of the fifth wave of infections.
In Sierra Leone, where 14% of the population is fully immunized, radio stations sometimes refuse to air government pro-vaccine messages due to unpaid bills, said Solomon Jamiru, the country’s COVID-19 spokesperson. .
A World Bank fund for vaccine procurement and deployment has sent $3.6 billion to sub-Saharan Africa. Of this amount, only $520 million has been spent. Amit Dar, the bank’s human development director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said outdated health systems had struggled to absorb funding.
Health experts say more funding was needed early in the pandemic for logistics and training.
Niger, where 6% are fully immunized, lacks enough cold stores for vaccines in its vast rural areas, or motorbikes to distribute them, according to the World Bank.
In Zambia, where coverage is 11%, officials are planning awareness campaigns but fear they will not be able to cover the cost of food for doctors working away from home or pay for their transport.
The virus has not ravaged African countries to the same devastating effect as in other regions.
Young populations and low testing rates have camouflaged its spread and blunted fears.
Now the continent has too many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination sites are empty; millions of unused vials are piling up and one of Africa’s leading producers of COVID-19 vaccines is still waiting for an order.
To boost uptake, countries like Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Kenya are focusing on mobile vaccination campaigns that visit communities. But finances are tight.
Health workers dressed in bright yellow vests fanned out at bustling West Accra market stalls and shops, one with a slung cooler box containing COVID-19 vaccine shots, asking wary shoppers whether they would like to receive an injection.
After an hour of hard work in the scorching sun, the team only administered four doses.
“The strategy is to go out into the community, go door to door to convince them, talk to them, tell them how important the vaccine is, the role the vaccine plays in the fight against the disease and all that,” Joseph Dwomor said. Ankrah, which is managing the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ghana.
Ghana, one of Africa’s most developed economies and applauded for its early inoculation push, has a $30 million funding gap to run another campaign, according to the World Bank. Irregular electricity supply jeopardizes the vaccine cold chain. The doses expire.