The third wave and why you should get vaccinated

Africa is in the midst of a full-blown third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO has warned. It is surging across the continent but less than 1% of the population is fully vaccinated.

In total, the continent has seen five million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, and 156,000 deaths. It is thought that the numbers among the 1.3 billion-strong population might actually be much higher due to under-reporting. For context, Europe – with 748 million people – has seen almost 33 million cases, and 730,000 deaths.

In the main, European countries were hit harder in the first and second waves of COVID-19 than most African nations, but now, while vaccination campaigns in Europe are surging ahead – as in many richer parts of the world – most of Africa remains barely protected. In fact, less than one per cent of Africa’s population – or almost 12 million people – have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to date.

Most African countries have relied on the COVAX vaccine distribution scheme, co-led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, for their vaccines. The scheme has faced major delays after India, the biggest producer of jabs for COVAX, focused instead on tackling its own coronavirus surge. However, even when vaccines are available, there have been issues actually getting the vaccines out and administered, the WHO said.

For example, a lack of funding for the roll-out, technical challenges and vaccine hesitancy have meant that 23 African countries have only managed to use around half of their allocations of vaccines.

That includes four of the five currently worst-affected countries: Tunisia, Zambia, Uganda and Namibia. Alongside South Africa, these countries account for 76 per cent of new cases across Africa in the last week, according to the WHO.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of fear mongering going on with the COVID-19 vaccine preventing people from getting vaccinated. Let’s separate fact from fiction.

What are the different types of covid-19 vaccines?

There are four types of vaccines in clinical trials: whole virus, protein subunit, viral vector and nucleic acid (RNA and DNA). Each of these protect you from the virus but works in a slightly different way.

How safe are COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 have been subject to the same checks and balances of any other vaccine. Despite the record speed at which they have been developed they have been shown to be safe.

How did we get COVID-19 vaccines so quickly?

Unprecedented political will, global collaboration and funding have enabled the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, without compromising vaccine safety. All other vaccine development was put on hold to address the current pandemic

Who can’t have a COVID-19 vaccine?

The currently available coronavirus vaccines have been demonstrated to be safe for adults of various ages, as well as those with chronic health conditions. But there are a few groups who should avoid being vaccinated for now.

Fortunately, none of the COVID-19 vaccines which have been approved for emergency use around the world contain any live virus, so it is safe for people with weakened immune systems to receive them, unlike some others, including the yellow fever and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines. This means more of the world’s population can be protected against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Even so, there are still a few groups who should either avoid being vaccinated for now, or carefully weigh up the risks and benefits with a health provider:

  • People with a history of specific allergies
  • Children under 16 years
  • People with pre-existing health conditions
  • Safety in pregnancy has not been established.


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