By Jael Namiganda
Despite the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that COVID-19 is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the virus remains a threat with the risk of new variants emerging.
The world health body is now calling on countries to focus on vaccinating high-risk groups such as the elderly, health workers, and people with comorbidities in order to reduce the risk of severe illness or death.
Speaking during a media webinar, Prof. Jayne Byakika Tusiime, the Incident Manager for COVID-19 at the WHO regional office for Africa said vaccination rates on the continent remain low compared to those of other regions. Currently, about 617 million COVID-19 doses have been administered out of the 825 million doses so far received in the African region. Of these, 36 percent of the population have received at least one dose while 30 percent have completed their vaccination series.
“Going forward, as we integrate COVID-19 vaccination into routine healthcare services, our priority will be on reaching more high-risk groups such as the elderly and people in hard-to-reach communities,” says Prof. Byakika.
In the African region, about 51 percent of the elderly population have completed their vaccination series in 22 countries, with South Africa, Cape Verde, and Ethiopia recording the highest percentage of fully vaccinated elderly populations.
According to the latest data from WHO, about 37.8 percent of the elderly population in Uganda is fully vaccinated.
Overall, across the region, only four countries–Rwanda, Mauritius, Liberia, and Seychelles have fully vaccinated about 70 percent of their populations.
President Yoweri Museveni who recently tested positive for COVID-19 had been an advocate for vaccination, saying it helped keep his symptoms mild.
“Let everybody be fully vaccinated and for the elderly get boosted,” President Museveni tweeted while giving an update on his COVID-19 status.