Emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, inequitable vaccine distribution, and implications for COVID-19 control in sub-Saharan Africa

Grant Murewanhema, Tafadzwa Dzinamarira, Innocent Chingombe, Munyaradzi Paul Mapingure, Solomon Mukwenha, Itai Chitungo, Helena Herrera, Roda Madziva, Solwayo Ngwenya, Godfrey Nyangadzayi Musuka

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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, four SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern have emerged, which have shifted the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of the disease. Of concern is the impact of the emerging variants on COVID-19 vaccination programmes, with vaccination perceived as a key
global pandemic control strategy. Variants of concern can reduce the effectiveness of the currently available vaccines, shift herd immunity thresholds, and promote wider vaccine inequities as richer countries hoard vaccines for booster shots for their populations without accounting for the needs of the underdeveloped countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, Africa lags far behind the rest of the world, with most sub-Saharan Africa countries still to reach 50% vaccination of their eligible populations against global herd immunity thresholds of 70–90%. As long as the vaccination gap between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of
the world persists, SARS-CoV-2 will most likely persist as a significant global health threat, with continued emergence of variants of concern. Therefore, strategies to ensure wider reach of different types of vaccines
on the African continent are urgently required alongside fighting vaccine hesitancy and logistical barriers
to access for the marginalized populations. Sub-Saharan Africa must look for opportunities to manufacture
vaccines on the continent and enhance genomic sequencing capacity as key pandemic-control strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-349
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022


  • SARS-CoV-2 variants
  • COVID-19
  • vaccine equity

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