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Africa’s Third COVID-19 Wave Is Not Over, Continent Should Brace for More Surges

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Washington, D.C. (July 23, 2021) -- Although new COVID-19 cases across Africa may be starting to trend downwards, the third wave is far from over and several countries remain dangerously affected by the spread of the Delta variant. Project HOPE warns that the third COVID-19 wave across African countries could be a prelude to deadlier waves in the weeks to come.

“The explosive nature with which the third COVID-19 wave hit African countries is not surprising – the highly infectious Delta variant reached a largely impoverished and unvaccinated population of 1.3 billion,” said Dr. Tom Kenyon, chief health officer at Project HOPE and former director of the Center for Global Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “What is surprising is the failure thus far of the donor community and pharmaceutical industry to support efforts by African leaders to vaccinate their communities. I’m fearful of a wave in Africa like we saw in India where millions may have succumbed to COVID-19.”

While the number of COVID-19 infections has dropped in South Africa, which accounted for 37 percent of the continent’s cases last week, the virus continues to spread in several countries, such as Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, and Mauritania. These countries could also see a further increase in cases following the recent Eid celebrations, which led to mass gatherings.

The third wave put existing medical resources under great strain with hospitals facing shortages of oxygen supplies and ICU beds. With only 1.5 percent of Africa’s population – about 20 million people – fully vaccinated and overstretched health systems, the prospect of new waves surging faster and higher should be of great concern.

“Some vaccine deliveries to African countries are expected in August. This is welcomed, but nowhere near the quantities needed. Besides, countries need programmatic support to effectively vaccinate their communities, especially health care workers,” said Dr. Kenyon. “This global imbalance in access to vaccines is leading to unnecessary deaths, and low-income countries are bearing the brunt.”

Since March 2021, Project HOPE has conducted several COVID-19 Vaccination Trainings in partnership with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Brown University’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies, to train health care workers in using COVID-19 vaccines and address questions and concerns from patients and communities. Parts of the trainings have also focused on tackling vaccine hesitancy, including among health care workers, and showed positive results.

"As many of my compatriots, I had a great mistrust in the COVID-19 vaccine,” says a physician from Madagascar who attended one of the trainings. “Ultimately, after the training, I was not only among the first to get vaccinated, but I also convinced my family and my loved ones to accept vaccination too. I suggest renewing the training again and again to bring down the barriers among caregivers that are still resistant.”

In a survey conducted among participants before and after the trainings, Project HOPE found a change in vaccine perceptions. Before the training, 62 percent of participants believed that mRNA vaccines could alter a patient’s DNA. After the training, only 21 percent of them maintained this false belief.

Project HOPE has supported the Africa CDC by delivering two types of trainings to health care workers and frontline COVID-19 responders in over 30 African countries. The trainings, “COVID-19 Preparedness and Response” and “COVID-19 Vaccination,” are available in English, French, Arabic, and Portuguese. “We’ve trained a thousand trainers across Africa through this partnership, but unfortunately the support for these trainers to educate their communities on COVID-19 vaccines hasn’t yet materialized. I’m concerned that time is running out," said Dr. Kenyon.

About Project HOPE

With the mission to place power in the hands of local health workers to save lives around the world, Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization operating in more than 25 countries. Founded in 1958, we work side-by-side with local health systems to improve health and support community resilience. We work at the epicenter of today’s greatest health challenges, including infectious and chronic diseases; disasters and health crises; maternal, neonatal and child health; pandemic preparedness and response; mental health for health workers; and the policies that impact how health care is delivered. For more information, visit www.ProjectHOPE.org and follow us on Twitter @ProjectHOPEorg.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact: 

Hajer Naili, Media Relations Manager, HNaili@ProjectHOPE.org, +33 6 03 50 53 93