Sep 9, 2021 - World

WHO warns Africa's COVID vaccine supply will drop by 25%

People waiting in line to register for a coronavirus vaccine in Kajiado, Kenya, on Sept. 9.
People waiting in line to register for a coronavirus vaccine in Kajiado, Kenya, on Sept. 9. Photo: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization warned on Thursday that Africa will receive 25% fewer doses of the coronavirus vaccine than expected by the end of the year, in part because of the approval of booster shots in developed countries.

Why it matters: The continent lags behind the rest of the world in vaccinations, and the cut to doses will further delay African countries' vaccination efforts — which raises the risk of new, more aggressive variants emerging.

What they're saying: Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa, criticized developed countries for wasting vaccine doses and specifically referenced the more than 15 million doses that have been discarded in the U.S. since March.

  • "This is enough vaccines to cover everyone over 18 years in Liberia, Mauritania and the Gambia," Moeti said in a news conference Thursday. “Every dose is precious and has the potential to save a life."
  • Moeti said high-income countries have pledged to share 1 billion doses globally and, so far, only 120 million have been released.
  • "If [vaccine-producing] countries and companies prioritize vaccine equity, this pandemic would be over quickly."

By the numbers: Just over 3% of the continent's population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, according to data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: The WHO strongly opposes the approval of booster shots in developed countries, arguing the data on the need for them is inconclusive and the doses would be better used to vaccinate people in poorer nations.

Yes, but: The Biden administration, which has unveiled plans for booster shots starting in September, has argued that the additional shots are needed to curb the spread of the virus in the U.S. and that developed countries can both administer boosters and deliver doses to developing countries.

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