Africa has seen a 40% increase in Covid-19 deaths over the past month compared to the previous 30 days, and is now approaching the 100,000 mark.
The spike in deaths comes as some countries begin to receive their first vaccines, but are faced with growing skepticism among the population over the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
“The increasing deaths from COVID-19 we are seeing are tragic, but are also disturbing warning signs that health workers and health systems in Africa are dangerously overstretched. This grim milestone must refocus everyone on stamping out the virus,” says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
Earlier this week, South Africa announced that it will pause the roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because of a study indicating that the vaccine is less effective in preventing mild and moderate infection with the 501Y.V2 variant that is dominant in the country.
But in February, the WHO strategic advisory group of experts on immunisation, also known as a SAGE had recommended that countries use the astrazeneca vaccine for priority groups even if variants are present in a country, while further research is conducted.
A view shared by and reinforced by microbiology Professor Peter Piot at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
“The key issue for me is acting now, and then the production will come more and more and then there will be more choice of vaccines that are more, let’s say, affordable, because of the price of AstraZeneca and JJ (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is much lower than the other, the messenger arn vaccines, but particularly the logistics, the logistics often determine the success of a program” says Professor Piot.
Africa’s overall fatality rates were lower than those elsewhere in the world during the first stage of the pandemic.
But now the alarms are on and the Africa CDC has warned about rising fatality rates in the continent, saying that of the 55 countries they monitor, 20 are now reporting fatality rates above the current global average of 2.2%.