By Jean Damascène Hakuzimana
Africa passed a grim milestone of 3 million cases on Sunday, January 10, accompanied by 72,000 deaths, with the majority of cases in South Africa (1.6 million) and North Africa (1 million). Outside of these regions, case counts are relatively low, hovering between 0.02 (Somalia) and 1.59 (Rwanda) new cases per 100,000 people. However, the World Health Organization warns that cases are on the rise in Africa. They also note that testing is not widespread, so true case numbers may not be known. The death rate on the continent is highest in South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Eswatini.
Meanwhile, a mutation of the COVID-19 variant named E484K was discovered in South Africa two months ago that worried the scientific community. And this is on top of the highly contagious B.1.1.7. first found in Britain. However, on January 20, Pfizer-BioNTech announced that their vaccine is expected to be effective against both key mutations, raising hopes that this will be true for all the vaccines, although studies are not yet conclusive. Updates to the vaccine may be necessary on a yearly basis, as is the case with the flu vaccine. TThe E484K mutation of the COVID-19 variant was also found in Brazil. The international scientific community is working hard to research all COVID-19 mutations as they are discovered, and test the efficacy of the vaccines against them.
The African Union has formed The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. So far, however, the continent has secured vaccines for only a fraction of the population