Africa being left behind amid 'extreme vaccine discrimination': report

Africa has little chance of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming year due to "extreme vaccine discrimination," according to a new report. 

The World Health Organization has set the goal of fully vaccinating 40 percent of Africa's population by the end of 2021, but only five of the continent's 54 countries are set to reach that goal. 

And only one in every 15 Africans has been fully vaccinated, or about 6.8 percent, according to the report from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. 

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This reality means the continent is unlikely to meet the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of its population by 2022, which the report says is necessary for Africa to "have a chance of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic."

The omicron variant's emergence in South Africa has increased concerns about places with low vaccination rates being prone to mutations of the COVID-19 virus, Reuters reported. 

"From early in this crisis, our Foundation and other African voices have been warning that an un-vaccinated Africa could become a perfect incubator for variants," Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire philanthropist, said in a statement, per Reuters.

"The emergence of Omicron reminds us that COVID-19 remains a global threat, and that vaccinating the whole world is the only way forward," Ibrahim added. "Yet we continue to live with extreme vaccine discrimination, and Africa in particular is being left behind."

As wealthier nations secured initial orders of vaccinations, the United Nations global vaccine equity program, called COVAX, got off to a slow start — leading some African leaders to complain about a global "vaccine apartheid."

While more vaccine deliveries have arrived in Africa in recent months, its weak healthcare systems and limited infrastructure have slowed the rollout of the shots, Reuters added. 

Some have speculated that Africa may have vaccination rates even lower than those that have been reported, the news service added. 

After South Africa first identified cases of the omicron cases, several countries including the U.S. placed travel bans on countries in the region.