A health worker holds bottles of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine under the COVAX scheme against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya March 5, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

ADDIS ABABA – The African Union (AU) on Monday expressed its deep concern about the inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, which was aggravated by the growing trend of vaccine hoarding.

The statement was made by the Peace and Security Council of the 55-member pan-African bloc on Monday, which followed the Council’s recent meeting that dwelt under the theme “Against COVID-19 by the African Continent: Challenge to Human Security in Africa”.

The Council is deeply concerned about the inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutic medicines and personal protective equipment, largely aggravated by the current practice of hoarding and monopolizing the COVID-19 vaccines, an AU statement said.

It emphasized that as a result of the growing trend of vaccine hoarding, Africa is facing delays compared to other global regions in accessing life-saving vaccines for COVID-19.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 4,830,229 as of Monday noon as the death toll from the pandemic stands at 130,451 while 4,365,227 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

South Africa has recorded the highest COVID-19 cases in Africa at 1,659,070, while the two northern African countries – Morocco and Tunisia – reported 519,108 and 344,688 cases as of Monday, respectively.

In terms of access to COVID-19 vaccine, African countries have so far acquired some 43 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, of which some 28 million doses have been administered.

This figure corresponds to a coverage rate of 1.62 percent at the continental level, with 0.46 percent of the population having received a full vaccine regimen, according to the Africa CDC.