African leaders highlight vaccine inequity in UNGA speeches | Coronavirus pandemic News
The inequity in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine became sharper on Thursday as many leaders of African countries, whose populations have little or no access to life-saving vaccines, took to the podium to speak at the United Nations General Assembly.
Already, the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic has featured prominently in the speeches of world leaders in recent days – many of them delivered at a distance because of the coronavirus itself. Country after country, countries have recognized the great disparity in vaccine access, painting such a grim picture that a solution has sometimes seemed impossible to achieve.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday called vaccines “the greatest defense available to humanity against the ravages of this pandemic”.
“It is therefore of great concern that the global community has not supported the principles of solidarity and cooperation to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.
“It is an indictment against humanity that more than 82% of vaccine doses worldwide have been acquired by rich countries, while less than 1% have gone to low-income countries. “
He and others urged UN member states to support a proposal to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow more countries, especially countries to low and middle income, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
For his part, Namibian President Hage Geingob denounced what he called “vaccine apartheid”, saying it was a shame that while people in some countries were at the stage of receiving booster shots, people in other countries had not yet received their first dose.
The US, UK, France, Germany and Israel are among the countries that have started administering boosters or have announced their intention to do so.
Angolan President Joao Lourenço, meanwhile, said it was “shocking to see the disparity between some countries and others when it comes to vaccine availability.”
“These disparities make it possible to administer third doses, in some cases, while in other cases, such as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose,” said Lourenço.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa called on the international community to demonstrate “enhanced multilateralism and unity of purpose” in vaccine distribution.
“The uneven and inequitable distribution with the resulting uneven vaccination patterns across the world is not acceptable,” he said in a recorded speech.
“Vaccine nationalism is doomed to fail and runs counter to the mantra that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” Mnangagwa added.
Benido Impouma, program director of the Africa program of the World Health Organization (WHO), noted during a weekly video conference that the increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19 is starting to abate in Africa ” but with 108,000 new cases, more than 3,000 lives lost last week and 16 countries still resurgent, this fight is far from over.
“Further increases in cases should be expected in the coming months,” Impouma said. “Without widespread vaccination and other public and social measures, the continent’s fourth wave will probably be the worst, the most brutal to date. “
At a global immunization summit convened virtually on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would double its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines to one billion doses to share with the world, with the goal of immunizing 70 percent of the world’s population within the next year.
The WHO has said that only 15% of pledged vaccine donations – from wealthy countries that have access to large quantities of vaccine – have been delivered.
The United Nations health agency has said it wants countries to meet their dose-sharing commitments “immediately” and make the injections available for programs that benefit poor countries and Africa, in particular.
Biden earlier this year broke with his European allies to adopt intellectual property rights waivers for vaccines, but there was no movement on Wednesday towards the needed global consensus on the issue required by the rules of the ‘WTO.
While some nongovernmental organizations have called the waivers vital in boosting global vaccine production, U.S. officials admit that it is not the most compelling factor in inequitable vaccine distribution – and some fear the waivers mean little without the production infrastructure needed to do the very complex jabs.