On Thursday, African Union officials announced that the body had begun shipping COVID-19 vaccine doses acquired through a Johnson & Johnson deal; however, they expressed concern about the pace of total deliveries in a region where only 1.5% of people are vaccinated.
Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union’s special envoy on COVID, said the J&J shipment move marks a step forward for the continent of more than 1.3 billion people, but he called the situation regarding vaccine deliveries a “crisis.”
“We should have received 320 million doses by now,” he said at a virtual news conference. “We didn’t get them.” As of Monday, African nations had received 103 million doses of the COVID vaccine, said John Nkengasong, head of Africa’s disease control agency.
According to Masiyiwa, the reasons for this could be debated, but the global vaccine-sharing facility known as COVAX told the AU in January that it would ship 320 million doses to African states by the end of August.
“The WHO (World Health Organization) told us yesterday that actual shipments were less than 13 million.” he said. That’s 10% of what we were told we would receive.”
In the early days of COVAX, the partnership aimed to get shots into the hands of people in poor countries whose governments could not afford and negotiate vaccine deals. Vaccine shipments from India were halted amid a catastrophic surge in cases there, adding to the delays. COVAX, backed by the United Nations, has also faced funding shortages and bureaucratic obstacles in its effort to purchase doses independently.
In the past four weeks, the continent has seen a 2% increase in cases and a 6% increase in deaths due to the pandemic, Nkengasong said on Thursday.