Most African Countries to Miss Vaccine Targets as B.1.1.529 COVID Variant Emerges in Continent

Most of the countries in Africa are expected to fall short of a global goal set this fall for at least 40 percent of every nation's population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) announced an initiative to boost vaccinations worldwide in early October. The organizations encouraged countries to aim to have at least 40 percent of their populations vaccinated against the virus by the end of December and at least 70 percent vaccinated by the middle of 2022.

According to a National World analysis published Friday assessing data compiled by Our World in Data, about 1.2 billion people in Africa have not yet received the vaccine, putting the bulk of the continent at risk of failing to meet the end-of-year goal.

COVID vaccination rates Africa
Most countries in Africa are expected to fall short of a vaccination target that the World Health Organization has encouraged all countries to meet by the end of 2021. Above, medical staff prepares a COVID-19 vaccine vial at a vaccination center on September 15 in Erfurt, Germany. Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Our World in Data's charts, which were last updated Thursday, showed that Morocco, Tunisia, Rwanda, Mauritius, Seychelles and Cape Verde have already reached the 40 percent vaccination goal set by the WHO and the UN. Botswana is also anticipated to reach that threshold by the end of the year, the data showed.

Aside from a few countries for which Our World in Data's charts showed there was no vaccination data available for 2021, the rest of the continent appeared likely to fall short of vaccinating 40 percent of each country's population by the end of the year.

National World reported that five countries in Africa had fewer than 1 percent of their total populations vaccinated against the virus, with about 7 percent of the entire continent fully vaccinated by the end of November. An estimated 6 percent of the entire continent's population had been fully vaccinated as of late October, according to a news release from the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

The WHO raised concerns about vaccinations in Africa last month, projecting that a majority of the nations would likely miss the 40 percent goal if efforts to boost vaccination rates were not made.

As vaccination rates continued to lag throughout much of the continent, health officials began warning people around the world about a virus variant reported in South Africa. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa confirmed the B.1.1.529 variant, which has been informally referred to as the "Nu" variant, was identified in South Africa. At least 22 cases had been confirmed in South Africa as of Thursday, the institute said in a news release.

The WHO was expected to hold a meeting on Friday to discuss the newly emerged variant and assess its risk level for the global population.

Newsweek reached out to the WHO for comment.