The world risks a “moral catastrophe” if COVID-19 vaccinations are delayed in Africa while wealthier regions inoculate their entire populations, the head of the continent’s disease control body has said.

John Nkengasong told reporters that the Africa Centres for Disease Control hopes that significant vaccination programmes will begin across Africa in April. But he warned that it’s a “long way to go,” especially as “the second wave is here with a vengeance.”

According to Africa CDC data, coronavirus cases increased by nearly 19% last week and deaths were up 26%.

Africa has recorded 2.7 million infections and 64 000 deaths as of Thursday and South Africa, where a new variant of the virus has been detected, recorded 82 000 cases in the past week.

Process of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa:

That’s why, Nkengasong says there can be no delay in acquiring vaccines. He said the major barriers to that are global availability of doses and financing, adding that wealthy nations have already acquired vaccines in excess of what they need.

The African Union is in talks with the European Union, Canada, and pharmaceutical companies to secure doses, Nkengasong said.

That’s in addition to what the continent has been promised under the COVAX programme, the World Health Organisation scheme to deliver vaccines to poorer countries.

Africa’s readiness as first Coronavirus vaccinations taken place in the UK: