CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — COVID-19 vaccine shipments have ground to “a near halt” in Africa while virus cases have spiked 20% over the last two weeks, the World Health Organization said Thursday, a bleak scenario for the continent on both those critical fronts.
South Africa alone saw a more than 60% rise in new cases last week as the country with the highest coronavirus caseload in Africa continued to face delays in its effort to roll out the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
More than 1 million J&J doses that should have already been put to use remain on hold at a pharmaceuticals plant in South Africa because of contamination concerns at a U.S. factory. The head of the Africa CDC said he expects an update in the coming days from U.S. federal regulators on those and other doses of J&J, which he called an essential vaccine for Africa because it’s a one-dose shot and doesn’t need the ultra-cold storage facilities required by others.
“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising,” WHO Africa director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said. “Our priority is clear. It’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of COVID-19.