In Brief: Only 70,000 people are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in Africa

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COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered through the COVAX Facility in Benin. Photo by: Présidence de la République du Bénin / CC BY-NC-ND

While the majority of countries in Africa have received shipments of COVID-19 vaccines, only about 70,000 people across the continent are fully vaccinated with two doses, said Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. This figure pales in comparison with other parts of the world where some countries have fully vaccinated large portions of their populations.

“When you look at how many people have gotten two vaccines, we are still at about 70,000. We haven’t even reached 100,000 in terms of who has gotten the full set of the vaccines on the continent,” Songwe said during an online discussion Wednesday.

In Africa, 45 countries have received shipments of vaccines. This has resulted in the administration of 12 million doses, but almost all are first doses.

The figures Songwe provided are assumed to not include North Africa, as Morocco has fully vaccinated about 11% of its population of an estimated 36.5 million people.

Why this matters: Hoarding of vaccines by wealthy countries that had a head start on vaccination rollouts has meant some nations have fully vaccinated high numbers of their residents. Over 5 million people in the United Kingdom have received two doses, and over 63 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated.

Moving forward: African nations are heavily dependent on AstraZeneca vaccines provided through the COVAX Facility, which is aimed at equitable vaccine access. But export restrictions in India — which supplies many of the doses — have caused delays and uncertainty around when countries might receive follow-up shipments of vaccines.

Export restrictions in India could stunt Africa's 2021 vaccination goals

The Africa CDC aims to vaccinate 30% of the continent's population this year. But India's decision to restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines may put this goal in jeopardy.

While the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Trust has entered into an agreement with Johnson & Johnson for 220 million doses of its single-shot vaccine candidate this year, and potentially 180 million more doses next year, this rollout won’t start until August and won’t “really go into full gear” until 2022, Songwe said.

“There is still a risk that we close 2021 with less than 5% of the African population [fully vaccinated],” she said.

Update, April 8, 2021: This article has been updated to reflect figures from Morocco.

About the author

  • Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is a global health reporter based in Nairobi. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, and Bloomberg News, among others. Sara holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2018, part of a Vice News Tonight on HBO team that received an Emmy nomination in 2018 and received the Philip Greer Memorial Award from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2014. She has reported from over a dozen countries.