Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Botswana health official receives the coronavirus vaccine.

Minister of Health and Wellness Edwin Dikoloti receives the Covid-19 vaccine in Gaborone, Botswana, on March 26, 2021. (Photo: Tshekiso Tebalo/Xinhua via Getty)

Number of Covid Boosters Given in US Exceeds Single Shots in 8 African Nations Combined

"Our leaders' failure to help bring the vaccines to everyone, everywhere will keep us on a cruel and never-ending cycle of illness, death, and economic suffering."

Jake Johnson

An analysis released Monday shows that the number of Americans who have received a coronavirus booster shot to date exceeds the number of people who have gotten a single vaccine dose in eight countries in southern Africa combined, a finding that came as the international community grappled with the threat posed by Omicron.

"If we do not vaccinate the world as quickly as possible, Covid will continue to threaten us all."

According to a Public Citizen review of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, around 37 million people have received a booster shot in the U.S., which has authorized boosters for its entire adult population.

Meanwhile, just 30 million people in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe—the eight countries on the Biden administration's new travel restriction list—have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose. The Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization has deemed a "very high" global risk, was first detected in southern Africa—though its origins are not clear.

Zain Rizvi, research director at Public Citizen and author of the new analysis, said the figures throw the global inoculation gap into sharp relief and further demonstrate that the U.S. remains well short of its promise to act as the world's vaccine "arsenal."

"The emergence of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, has exposed the risks of an unvaccinated world," said Rizvi. "Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. has sent 11.2 million doses to those eight countries in southern Africa. That is less than what the U.S. distributed at home in one week in November (Nov. 17 – 24)."

In August, the Biden administration dismissed the WHO's call for a temporary moratorium on booster shots, a demand aimed at freeing up additional vaccine supply for low-income nations that have been denied sufficient access. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the WHO's recommendation presented a "false choice" between boosters and adequate global vaccination.

"But until the U.S. government uses its power under the Defense Production Act to share the vaccine recipe and make surge investments in global vaccine production," Rizvi argued Monday, "that choice will remain true—and only become increasingly stark."

The Public Citizen analysis was published as President Joe Biden said in a speech that the Omicron variant is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic," stressing that "we have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists."

But the president's words were likely cold comfort for nations that don't have enough vaccine doses in large part because of hoarding by rich countries—including the U.S.—and pharmaceutical companies' refusal to share key technology. Just 27% of all health workers on the African continent have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the WHO.

Robbie Silverman, senior manager of private sector advocacy at Oxfam America, said in a statement Monday that the emergence of the Omicron variant "affirms what many of world's leading scientists, public health officials, doctors, nurses, and economists have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic: if we do not vaccinate the world as quickly as possible, Covid will continue to threaten us all."

"Our leaders' failure to help bring the vaccines to everyone, everywhere will keep us on a cruel and never-ending cycle of illness, death, and economic suffering. Omicron must be the wake-up call. We need President Biden to lead in negotiating a comprehensive TRIPS waiver at the [World Trade Organization] and press for the sharing of all vaccine technologies immediately. No one is safe until everyone is safe."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist Thích Nhất Hạnh Dead at 95

"He inspired so many good people to dedicate themselves to working for a more just and compassionate world."

Jessica Corbett ·


Draft Order Shows Trump Considered Using Military to Seize Voting Machines

"This was part of the records that Trump was fighting to keep from the January 6th committee," one government watchdog noted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Groups Warn US Lawmakers Against Fueling 'New Cold War' With China

A policy of hostility toward Beijing, says a global justice advocate, has "become a convenient excuse for pushing a corporate, militarist agenda."

Jessica Corbett ·


Democracy 'On the Line' Says Bowman After Protest Arrest

"I will not stand by and I will not stay quiet while the fate of our democracy continues to hang loosely by a thread that the Senate is hellbent on tearing apart."

Julia Conley ·


To 'Hold Her Accountable for What She Did,' Primary Sinema Project Gets Into Gear

"Kyrsten Sinema is unfit to be a United States senator," the project asserts. "Just like the filibuster itself, we need to get rid of her if we want to save our democracy before it's too late."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo