While a new Covid variant first identified in southern Africa raised the alarm among global health officials on Friday, global vaccination data shows the huge gap in vaccination rates between Africa and wealthier regions of the world.
Just over 10 percent of people in Africa have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, well below the 64 percent vaccinated in North America and 62 percent in Europe.
World Health Organization officials have attributed the vaccination gaps to the uneven distribution of vaccines, noting that weather countries have bought enough doses to offer booster shots, while poorer countries have struggled to get the first doses.
The United States donated more than 230 million vaccines on Friday, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In a statement, President Joe Biden urged other countries to donate more injections.
“The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than any other country combined,” Biden said. “It’s time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.”
The World Health Organization called the new variant “omicron” and declared it a variant of concern on Friday, citing evidence suggesting “an increased risk of reinfection with this variant,” a statement said.
After news of the variant was announced, the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 900 points on Friday. The United States also followed the European Union and other countries to restrict fast travel from South Africa and seven other South African countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. All countries have a vaccination rate of less than 40 percent.