Covid-19 may become endemic in Africa, warns continent’s CDC director

By Katarina Hoije

(Bloomberg) – The coronavirus may permanently establish itself in Africa unless more is done to ensure the expeditious roll out of Covid-19 vaccines, the head of the disease control body said Wednesday.

This includes lifting a waiver on intellectual property rights to enable manufacturers to produce vaccines on the continent, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an online briefing.

“If by the end of 2022, we haven’t vaccinated at least 60% of the population, then the chances that we’re moving toward an endemic situation of Covid on the continent becomes very, very real,” he said. “I don’t think the continent has the ability to withstand those shocks.”

Distribution of vaccines to sub-Saharan Africa’s 1.1 billion people has been slow with only a handful of countries having started inoculating. South Africa, which has recorded over 1.5 million coronavirus cases, the highest in the region began vaccinating health workers on Feb. 17.

Ivory Coast and Ghana distributed their first shots this week under the Covax vaccine-sharing facility, which has delivered 10 million doses to 15 countries worldwide with a majority of those in Africa, according to Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

The risk of the virus becoming permanent in Africa, which has recorded 3.9 million Covid-19 cases, would have a “substantial impact on economies,” Nkengasong said.

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