The global known death from COVID-19 has surpassed 4 million with nearly 150,000 people dying in Africa, and the World Health Organization warning that the disease was increasing in intensity there with the spread of the Delta variant. The real toll could be much higher.
The latest data from Johns Hopkins University show that one million people died from the disease in the past 82 days alone compared to 92 days for the previous million, an indication that vaccines are not reaching people fast enough to save them.
The latest data show that people are dying more in developing countries as an inequitable distribution of vaccine access leave poorer countries exposed to outbreaks of more infectious strains.
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India, for instance, accounted for 26 percent of the increase from 3 million to 4 million deaths while Brazil accounted for 18 percent. The United States accounted for just 4 percent. At least 332 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States.
The data also showed that the United Kingdom accounted for just 1,000 of the extra deaths. Before the big vaccine rollout, more people were dying in the United States and the United Kingdom than in most countries in the world.
In Africa, COVID-19 cases have risen for seven consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave on May 3, 2021. During the week ending July 4, more than 251 000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on the continent, amounting to a 20% increase over the previous week and a 12% jump from the January peak.
Sixteen African countries are now in resurgence, with Malawi and Senegal added this week. The Delta variant has been detected in 10 of these countries.
“Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever. But the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “The end to this precipitous rise is still weeks away. Cases are doubling now every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago. We can still break the chain of transmission by testing, isolating contacts and cases and following key public health measures.”
The current upsurge comes while vaccination rates remain low in Africa. But there are hopeful signs. After almost grinding to a halt in May and early June, vaccine deliveries from the COVAX Facility are gathering momentum. In the past two weeks, more than 1.6 million doses were delivered to Africa through COVAX. More than 20 million Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to arrive imminently from the United States through COVAX, in coordination with the African Union. Forty-nine countries have been notified of the allocations they will receive. Other significant donations from Norway and Sweden are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
“COVAX partners are working around the clock to clinch dose-sharing pledges and procurement deals with manufacturers to ensure that the most vulnerable Africans get a COVID-19 vaccination quickly,” said Dr Moeti. “These efforts are paying off. Our appeals for ‘we first and not me first’ are finally turning talk into action. But the deliveries can’t come soon enough because the third wave looms large across the continent.”