Travel was delayed for the Biden-Harris administration for obvious reasons, as the pandemic continues to affect everyday life for not just Americans, but citizens across the globe. In Africa specifically, citizens are suffering due to a shortage of around 700 million doses.
Over the last week, the issue has become more pressing as the World Health Organization disseminated the dire news regarding the shortage.
“It is extremely concerning and at times frustrating,” Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Prior to Biden’s planned appearance in England on the first leg of his eight-day tour, the Biden administration announced it secured an agreement with Pfizer to purchase 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to donate to countries that are suffering disproportionately from vaccine distribution. The donation will go to 92 countries, including the African Union over the next year.
“We have to end COVID-19 not just at home — which we’re doing — but everywhere,” Biden said while addressing a crowd of masked onlookers in England.
Last week Biden announced the United States would donate 25 million doses of surplus vaccines through the COVAX program, backed by the United Nations. The donations would be distributed to Africa, in addition to other countries suffering vaccine shortages like South and Central America, Asia, and Africa.
According to an Associated Press report released on Wednesday, communities in Africa are suffering from vaccine inequity as several different variants of COVID-19 continue to mutate and produce deadlier versions of the virus.
In South Africa, less than one percent of the population is fully vaccinated according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University. And sadly health workers, those who are most susceptible to be exposed, have yet to receive their shots.
Nigeria, the largest country in Africa with over 200 million people reports a vaccination rate of 0.1 percent, while Kenya reports an even lower number.
Global medical officials like Dr. John Nkengasong hope that world leaders who plan to convene at the G-7 summit this week will take a collaborative approach to address the shortage.
“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.”