5 African Countries Have not Given any COVID Vaccines Amid Continent Shortages

At least five African countries have not administered any COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization said there is a severe vaccine shortage across Africa amid a new wave of COVID-19 cases, the Associated Press reported. Even with the doses secured through WHO's COVAX program, African is still facing a shortage of around 700 million doses.

"It is extremely concerning and at times frustrating," Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong told the Associated Press.

Nkengasong called on the leaders of wealthy nations meeting this week at the G-7 summit to send spare vaccine doses to African countries in need in order to prevent a "moral catastrophe."

"I'd like to believe that the G-7 countries, most of them having kept excess doses of vaccines, want to be on the right side of history," Nkengasong said. "Distribute those vaccines. We need to actually see these vaccines, not just ... promises and goodwill."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Coronavirus Vaccine Shortage Africa
A medical worker injects a second dose of Astra Zeneca vaccine to a patient in a Covid-19 (coronavirus) vaccination centre in Kigali, on May 27, 2021. The World Health Organization said there is a severe vaccine shortage across Africa amid a new wave of COVID-19 cases. Ludovic MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

The United States and Britain, in contrast, have fully vaccinated more than 40% of their populations, with higher rates for adults and high-risk people. Countries in Europe are near or past 20 percent coverage and their citizens are starting to think about where their vaccine certificates might take them on their summer vacations. The U.S., France and Germany are even offering shots to youngsters, who are at very low risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Poorer countries had warned as far back as last year of this impending vaccine inequality, fearful that rich nations would hoard doses.

In South Africa, which has the continent's most robust economy and its biggest coronavirus caseload, just 0.8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a worldwide tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University. And hundreds of thousands of the country's health workers, many of whom come face-to-face with the virus every day, are still waiting for their shots.

In Nigeria, Africa's biggest country with more than 200 million people, only 0.1% are fully protected. Kenya, with 50 million people, is even lower. Uganda has recalled doses from rural areas because it doesn't have nearly enough to fight outbreaks in big cities.

Chad didn't administer its first vaccine shots until this past weekend. And there are at least five other countries in Africa where not one dose has been put into an arm, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"People are dying. Time is against us. This IS INSANE," South African human rights lawyer Fatima Hasan, an activist for equal access to health care, wrote in a series of text messages.

The Biden administration made its first major move to ease the crisis last week, announcing it would share an initial batch of 25 million spare doses with desperate countries in South and Central America, Asia and Africa.

Nkengasong and his team were in contact with White House officials a day later, he said, with a list of countries where the 5 million doses earmarked for Africa could go to immediately.

Still, the U.S. offer is only a "trickle" of what's needed, Hasan wrote.

Uganda just released a batch of 3,000 vaccine doses in the capital, Kampala — a minuscule amount for a city of 2 million — to keep its program barely alive.

There and elsewhere, the fear is that the luck that somehow enabled parts of Africa to escape the worst of previous waves of COVID-19 infections and deaths might not hold this time.

"The first COVID was a joke, but this one is for real. It kills," said Danstan Nsamba, a taxi driver in Uganda who has lost numerous people he knew to the virus.

In Zimbabwe, Chipo Dzimba embarked on a quest for a vaccine after witnessing COVID-19 deaths in her community. She walked miles to a church mission hospital, where there were none, and miles again to a district hospital, where nurses also had nothing and told her to go to the region's main government hospital. That was too far away.

"I am giving up," Dzimba said. "I don't have the bus fare."

South African health workers faced similar disappointment when they crowded into a parking garage last month, hoping for vaccinations and ignoring in their desperation the social distancing protocols. Many came away without a shot.

Femada Shamam, who is in charge of a group of old-age homes in the South African city of Durban, has seen only around half of the 1,600 elderly and frail people she looks after vaccinated. It is six months, almost to the day, since Britain began the global vaccination drive.

"They do feel very despondent and they do feel let down," Shamam said of her unvaccinated residents, who are experiencing "huge anxiety" as they hunker down in their sealed-off homes 18 months into the outbreak. Twenty-two of her residents have died of COVID-19.

"It really highlights the biggest problem ... the haves and the have-nots," Shamam said.

As for whether wealthy countries with a surplus of vaccines have gotten the message, Nkengasong said: "I am hopeful, but not necessarily confident."

African Shortage COVID-19 Vaccines
In this May 25, 2021, file photo, a health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at the Orange Farm Clinic near Johannesburg. In the global race to vaccinate people against COVID-19, Africa is tragically at the back of the pack. Themba Hadebe/AP Photo