Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says South Africa and the continent must prepare for a possible third wave of the coronavirus.
South Africa is the country worst affected by the pandemic in Africa and has only just procured a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India’s Serum Institute.
Mkhize says on the continent, less than 10 countries are able to self-finance with most needing the assistance of the WHO-led COVAX Facility to procure vaccines.
However, the facility is grappling with wealthier nations to procure the vaccine.
Addressing a dialogue on the impact of the pandemic in Africa, Mkhize says this essentially means the supply to Africa may not be near enough to create herd immunity against the virus:
“What we have seen is that in most of the countries the second wave has come to be much heavier, fiercer and costs more lives. It is also likely that we might face a third wave. There is no way of being able to prevent it, the third wave. Its impact will probably be more devastating.”
Latest COVID-19 stats for SA:
Africa looking to immunise 60% of the population in next three years
As wealthier nations push ahead with mass immunisation, Africa is seeking to immunise 60% of its 1.3 billion people in the next three years. Only a handful of African nations have begun giving doses.
The AU bloc initially secured 270 million doses from manufacturers for member states, then late last month said it would receive another 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
John Nkengasong, Director of the AU’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the 16 countries had so far placed requests for the vaccines under the bloc’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), which started operation in mid-January.
“With respect to AVATT, 16 countries have now expressed their interest for a total 114-million doses of vaccines,” Nkengasong told a virtual news conference. “Our hope is that in the next two to three weeks, they should be having their vaccines. But I cannot give you a specific date.”
Separately from the AU’s efforts, Africa is to receive about 600 million vaccine doses this year via the COVAX facility co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).