WITH coronavirus vaccine deliveries to Africa finally picking up pace, efforts to get shots in arms may be hampered by shortages of specialised syringes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
‘Vaccine donations are now surpassing syringe availability,’ Phionah Atuhebwe, the WHO’s new vaccines introduction medical officer, told a media briefing Thursday. ‘Without a plan we really will be in big trouble.’
Relief agency UNICEF has reported an expected shortfall of as many as 2.2 billion auto-disable syringes for both Covid-19 immunization and routine vaccines in 2022. That includes 0.3 millilitre syringes needed for Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE’s shot.
‘The market for 0.3 millilitre auto-disable syringes is tight and extremely competitive,’ and shortages are expected until at least the first quarter of next year, Atuhebwe said.
Most syringes used in Africa are imported from Asia and Europe. With about 5.6 percent of Africans fully vaccinated so far, the continent’s target of 40 percent coverage by the year-end is unlikely to be reached, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said in a separate briefing Thursday.
‘We will continue to go from wave to wave unless we address the issue of vaccination,’ he said.
The age range of people eligible for shots needs to be expanded, said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Africa director. About 40 percent of Africa’s more than 1.3 billion people are estimated to be 15-years-old or younger.
Still, about 50 million Covid-19 vaccine doses arrived in Africa so far this month, almost double what was shipped in September, Moeti said.
The African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Trust has signed a deal with Johnson & Johnson to buy as many as 400 million doses of its Covid-19 shot by the end of 2022, with 12.1 million doses shipped to date. Deliveries may jump to 35 million shots by the end of November, Nkengasong said.