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West African health officials race to vaccinate amid spikes


Thousands of new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the region over the past few weeks amid low vaccination rates and the spread of the delta variant, with some countries seeing their highest numbers since the pandemic began.

Bamba Fall, mayor of Medina Municipality in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, said, “In the beginning, there were people who gave false information, but when people saw an increase in pollution and deaths, people understood that only vaccination could save them.” Is.”

Shortages and delays have left Africa’s 54 countries far behind wealthy nations in their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said that about 82 million doses have arrived on the continent so far, although this is only 10% of the number needed to vaccinate 30% of the population by the end of 2021.

But more shipments are finally underway, taking the continent of 1.3 billion people into “an encouraging phase after a foggy June,” Moeti said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine delivery to Africa, but it should never be snuffed out again.”

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 210 million people, will next month receive more than 29 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines procured by the government through the African Union. It is also expecting 4 million doses of Moderna and about 700,000 AstraZeneca vaccines through the COVAX program and from donations by the United States and the United Kingdom, according to Health Minister Osagi Ehanaire.

Nigeria’s cumulative number of virus cases recently topped 172,200, an increase of more than 4,500 cases since July 10. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has more than doubled in the past two weeks, from 0.06 new cases per 100,000 people on July 15. According to Johns Hopkins University, 0.17 new cases per 100,000 people as of July 29.

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweju, director general of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, said isolation centers that were closed after the last surge are being reopened in anticipation of a larger number of patients.

Meanwhile, confirmed cases in Senegal, which was at the fore in the fight against the virus, rose from just 380 on 10 July to 1,700 on 18 July, the highest number since the pandemic began, according to the health ministry.

Dakar’s main cemetery is also seeing a large number of funerals, many that were possibly due to COVID-19 but were not recorded as such.

“I had come for the funeral of an uncle. He died at home. Compassionately, he did not get tested, but everything suggests that he died of COVID-19, as he had symptoms of the disease, ”said Saliu Ndoy. “This situation is worrying. There are many deaths. “

Senegal is employing more community-focused campaigns as residents look to people close to them – including the young and healthy – of illness.

“Senegal doesn’t know where to turn,” said resident Khalifa Abbakar Diop. “We’re afraid.”

The country received nearly 300,000 Johnson & Johnson doses and more than 330,000 Chinese Sinoform vaccines in the past week. Thousands of residents are waiting for a second dose of AstraZeneca, but it is out of stock and new deliveries are not expected until August.

An increase in hospitalizations and deaths is prompting many residents of West Africa to get vaccinated.

Harris Fomba Tarneau, principal of the Booker Washington Institute, Liberia’s oldest technical high school, told the Associated Press: “Initially, I was hesitant to get the vaccine because I saw many conspiracy theories and the anti-vaccine media campaign also appeared strong. “

“But when I reflected a lot on getting vaccines in the ’60s and ’70s, and the (beneficial) impact vaccines have on global health now, I concluded it’s a must for me and my family,” Tarneau said. Said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francis Kateh said Liberia received 96,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX initiative, but the first batch of about 27,000 had a lifespan of only one month and ended because people had to take the shots. were reluctant.

The country received more than 300,000 Johnson & Johnson doses on Sunday, nearly two weeks after AstraZeneca ended, with at least 86,000 people awaiting a second dose.

According to the health minister, since its vaccine drive began in March, only 9,579 people in a country of about 5 million have been fully vaccinated.

In Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo sounded the alarm on Sunday as new confirmed infections tripled, stretching hospitals and ICU wards to their limits.

Ghana “cannot tolerate the carelessness of a few people endangering the lives of most of the country,” he said, adding that the declaration of masks in public places is now mandatory.

He said Ghana is committed to vaccinate 20 million people, representing its entire adult population, by the end of this year.

He pledged $25 million to start an institution that would allow Ghana to make vaccines, and not rely on foreign manufacturers. South Africa is currently the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to have the capability to manufacture supplements.

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AP reporter Babakar Dion in Dakar; Jonathan Pay-Leleh in Monrovia, Liberia; Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana; and Sam Olukoya in Lagos, Nigeria contributed.

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