The rapid spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 has made the successful rollout and uptake of vaccinations against the disease around the world more urgent than ever. Through regional cooperation and tough national actions, among other factors, the African continent has made impressive strides toward preventing the devastating impacts of the pandemic seen elsewhere. However, recent months have seen massive upticks in case numbers as containment measures are relaxed and global travel resumes. In fact, the region has now counted over 7 million cases, and this number is rising rapidly, alongside large numbers of tragic and preventable deaths.
Already, regional institutions, led by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union, have worked tirelessly to obtain much-needed medical supplies, ventilators, diagnostic tests, and personal protective equipment, among other essential materials, in order to shore up Africa’s defenses against the virus. Of course, one of the most effective tools for combating the spread of the virus is the vaccine, of which many versions now exist.
However, this essential tool continues to be out of reach for most Africans: Indeed, the region is far behind the rest of the world in obtaining and distributing the vaccine due to a myriad of challenges, including supply, cost, poor roads, few cold chain storage facilities, and patient hesitancy, among other constraints. Donations of these vaccines from the U.S., Europe, and many other partners—both bilaterally and through the efforts of COVAX—have increased supplies, but those donations are far too few, and the speed of the vaccine rollout is much too slow to truly blunt the impact of COVID-19 in the region, especially as variants continue to accelerate the spread. In fact, as of this writing, less than 2% of Africa’s over 1 billion people have been fully vaccinated.
The pandemic is far from over and developing countries lack access to important tools to control the COVID-19 virus. Given this pressing challenge, on Wednesday, September 15, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative will host a discussion on approaches for accelerating vaccinations against COVID-19 in Africa, including strategies for procuring the vaccine, financing the rollout, addressing vaccine hesitancy, and reaching as many people as possible.