Africa is banking on COVID-19 mass vaccination campaigns to realize the African Union’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the continent’s population by the end of the year to achieve herd immunity.
To that end, the continent launched through the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the Saving Lives and Livelihood program, a mass vaccination campaign.
The program began last year and is a partnership between MasterCard Foundation and the Africa CDC. MasterCard is financing the three-year program to the tune of $1.5 billion.
Its objective is to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for at least 65 million people and drive millions more by enabling the delivery and administration of vaccines as well as strengthen the capacity of Africa CDC.
This is in addition to laying groundwork for vaccine manufacturing by focusing on human capital development.
Under the program, Africa CDC and AU launched an initiative called Bingwa, a Swahili word meaning “champion”, to recruit young people as vaccine advocates in their communities.
Ahmed Ouma, acting director of Africa CDC, said the program’s mass vaccination which was launched in Ethiopia two weeks ago will be expanded to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in the next phase, after which it will be launched in other African countries progressively.
“The mass vaccination campaign is designed to reach the goal of 70 percent within the timeframe we had set,” Ouma said.
Mauritius and Seychelles have already achieved the 70 percent overall coverage while Rwanda and Botswana are almost there, having fully vaccinated 67 and 64 percent of their population respectively according to World Health Organization data.
Additionally, seven other countries have fully vaccinated more than 40 percent of their populations. Unfortunately, 10 countries have fully vaccinated less than 10 percent.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, has been urging African countries to continue rolling out mass vaccination campaigns to increase rates.
“Vaccination is still our best defense against COVID-19 and our best chance of ending the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Many African countries are launching initiatives to increase vaccination rates even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
Kenya, which is experiencing its sixth wave of COVID-19, launched a fleet of mobile vaccination clinics targeting hard-to-reach communities across the country.
The 10 movable clinics were launched by the Ministry of Health in partnership with Amref Health Africa and AstraZeneca.
To date, Kenya has fully vaccinated 31.9 percent of its 27 million adults. This is far below the 70 percent the country had targeted by the end of June. Nevertheless, the country is looking at vaccinating its entire adult population by the end of the year.
The East African country also aims to fully vaccinate all 5.8 million people aged between 15 and 17 by the end of December. So far, Kenya has fully vaccinated almost 1.6 million.
Africa has fully vaccinated 18.4 percent of its population, which is low compared to the 61.2 percent fully vaccinated global population.