Covid Live Updates: Africa Faces Third Wave as Vaccine Rollout Sputters


South African retirees waiting to receive doses of Covid vaccine at a clinic near Johannesburg, South Africa, last week.
Credit…Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

A sudden, sharp rise in coronavirus cases in many parts of Africa could amount to a continental third wave, the World Health Organization warned on Thursday, a portent of deeper trouble for a continent whose immunization drives have been crippled by shortfalls in funding and vaccine doses.

The W.H.O., an arm of the United Nations, said test positivity had risen in 14 African countries over the last seven days, with eight reporting a surge of over 30 percent in new cases. Infections are steadily climbing in South Africa, where four of nine provinces are battling a third wave. There has also been a sharp increase in cases in Uganda, with hospitals overwhelmed with Covid patients and authorities mulling a lockdown.

The W.H.O. attributed the rise to loose compliance with social restrictions, and increasing travel along with the arrival of the winter season in southern Africa.

Experts also believe the spread of new coronavirus variants — like those first identified in South Africa, the United Kingdom and India — is contributing to the surge, and the ensuing rise in deaths. While Africa has reported less than 3 percent of global coronavirus cases, the W.H.O. said the continent accounted for 3.7 percent of total deaths. And that is almost certainly a severe undercount, since in the vast majority of countries on the African continent, most deaths are never formally registered.

“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the W.H.O. regional director for Africa, said in a statement. She added: “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.”

But while many wealthier countries have vigorous vaccination campaigns, and some are on track to fully reopen, many of Africa’s poorer countries face a huge challenge in accessing vaccines.

Out of a continental population of 1.3 billion, only 31 million people have received at least one dose, Dr. Moeti said, and only seven million are fully vaccinated. In Kenya, 1,386 people are fully vaccinated.

Countries like Ghana and Rwanda have run through their first deliveries of vaccines through Covax, the global facility working to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines.

Vaccine hesitancy has afflicted the rollout in nations like Malawi, while concerns over rare blood clots and limitations in inoculation capacity pushed the Democratic Republic of Congo to donate millions of doses to other African states before they expired.

The rising cases, the W.H.O. warned, could overwhelm already creaky health care systems struggling with limited intensive care beds, oxygen and ventilators.

To forestall a full-blown crisis, Dr. Moeti urged “countries that have reached a significant vaccination coverage to release doses and keep the most vulnerable Africans out of critical care.”

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U.S. to Distribute an Initial 25 Million Vaccine Doses Worldwide

The White House announced on Thursday that it would distribute the coronavirus vaccines as part of the 80 million doses President Biden pledged to send overseas by the end of June.

“Today, we’re outlining our framework for sharing with the world the first 25 million doses. To be clear, our approach is to ensure vaccines are delivered in a way that is equitable. It follows the latest science and public health data. Across the coming weeks, the administration will move as expeditiously as possible, and work through regulatory requirements, logistical details to ensure safe and secure delivery of doses.” “First, our goal in sharing our vaccines is in service of ending the pandemic globally. Our overarching aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. It’s as simple as that. We want to save lives and thwart variants that place all of us at risk. But perhaps most important, this is just the right thing to do. Thanks to the ingenuity of American scientists and the resilience and commitment of the American people, we’re in a position to help others, so we will help others.”

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The White House announced on Thursday that it would distribute the coronavirus vaccines as part of the 80 million doses President Biden pledged to send overseas by the end of June.CreditCredit…Dibyangshu Sarkar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The White House, besieged with requests from other nations to share excess doses of coronavirus vaccine, on Thursday announced that it would distribute an initial 25 million doses this month across a “wide range of countries” within Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, as well as the Palestinian territories, war-ravaged Gaza and the West Bank.

The doses represent an initial tranche of a total of 80 million that President Biden has pledged to send overseas by the end of this month. Three-quarters of that first batch will be given to the international vaccine effort known as Covax, officials said at a White House briefing on the pandemic. The rest will be reserved for “immediate needs and to help with surges around the world,” said Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, including in India and Iraq as well as the West Bank and Gaza.

Thursday’s announcement comes a week before Mr. Biden leaves for Cornwall, England, to meet with the heads of state of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, where the global vaccine supply is certain to be a topic of discussion. Officials said the Biden administration would continue to donate additional doses throughout the summer as they become available.

“This is just the beginning,” said Jeffrey Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator. “Expect a regular cadence of shipments around the world, across the next several weeks.”

While China and Russia have used vaccine donations as an instrument of diplomacy in an effort to extract favors from other nations, Mr. Biden has insisted the United States will not do that — a point that Mr. Sullivan emphasized on Thursday.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have had at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, and the rate of new cases and deaths has plummeted, contributing to an overall picture across the country that is “encouraging and uplifting,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

But the picture around the world, especially in poorer nations in Africa and Central and South America, where vaccination rates are much lower, is bleak. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay are all awash in new cases; in Colombia, nearly 500 people a day have died of the coronavirus over the last several weeks. A sudden, sharp rise in coronavirus cases in many parts of Africa could amount to a continental third wave, the World Health Organization warned on Thursday.

Some African nations have less than 1 percent of their populations partially vaccinated, according to data from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, and the percentages of vaccinated people in Honduras and Guatemala are around 3 percent of the population.

Mr. Sullivan said the administration has decided to give priority to countries he described as neighbors of the United…



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