“Vaccine apartheid”. Africans tell UN they need COVID vaccines
As rich countries begin to consider whether to offer their populations a third injection of COVID-19, African nations still awaiting their first gave this harsh reminder to world leaders at the General Assembly of Nations United Thursday: âNo one is safe unless we are all safe. . “
This message was repeated throughout the day as the inequity of vaccine distribution became evident. In mid-September, less than 4 percent of Africans have been fully immunized and most of the 5.7 billion doses of vaccine administered worldwide have been administered in just 10 wealthy countries.
Chadian President Mahamat Idriss DÃ©by Itno has warned of the dangers of leaving countries behind.
“The virus does not know continents, borders, let alone nationalities or social status,” Itno told the General Assembly. âCountries and regions that are not vaccinated will be a source of the spread and development of new variants of the virus. In this regard, we welcome the repeated calls by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the World Health Organization for access to the vaccine for all. The salvation of mankind depends on it.
The fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic has featured prominently in speeches by leaders over the past few days – many of them delivered at a distance exactly because of the virus. 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 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. âIt 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 to enable more countries, especially low-income countries and intermediary, to produce vaccines against COVID-19.
Earlier this year, US President Joe Biden broke with his European allies to agree to the waivers, but there has been no movement towards the necessary global consensus on the issue required by WTO rules.
While some nongovernmental organizations have called the waivers vital in boosting global vaccine production, U.S. officials concede that this is not the most compelling factor in inequitable vaccine distribution – and some privately doubt the waivers. for very complex vaccines would lead to improved production.
Angolan President JoÃ£o LourenÃ§o said it was “shocking to see the disparity between some countries and others in the availability of vaccines”.
“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 LourenÃ§o.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Israel are among the countries that have started administering boosters or have announced their intention to do so.
Namibian President Hage Geingob called it “vaccine apartheid,” a notable reference given the country’s own experience with apartheid when the white minority government in neighboring South Africa controlled South West Africa, the name of Namibia before its independence in 1990.
âThere is a much more terrible, more heartbreaking virus than COVID19. This is the virus of inequality, âsaid the president of the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan.
The grim aftermath of COVID-19 hit Tanzania particularly hard when the then President of the East African country, John Magufuli, who had insisted that the coronavirus could be defeated through prayer, was died in March. The presidency went to his deputy, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has since changed the course of Tanzania on the pandemic but still sees great challenges ahead.
“We tend to forget that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” she said during her speech on Thursday, stressing the importance of countries with surpluses. doses of COVID-19 vaccine by sharing them with other countries.
Benido Impouma, program director of the WHO Africa program, 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, over 3,000 lives lost in the past week and 16 countries still resurgent, this fight is far from over.
âFurther increases in cases should be expected in the coming months,â Impouma said. âWithout 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 world immunization summit held virtually on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Wednesday, Biden announced that the United States would double your purchase Pfizer’s COVID-19 injections to be shared with the world at 1 billion doses, with the goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population within the next year.
Lack of access to vaccines is not only Africa’s concern. Leaders of developing countries from different regions echoed the frustration. President Luis Arce of Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, told the gathered diplomats that biopharmaceutical companies should make their patents available and share knowledge and technology for vaccine production.
âAccess to the vaccine should be considered a human right. We cannot be indifferent, let alone enjoy health in times of pandemic, âsaid Arce.
Earlier Thursday, Cuban President Miguel DÃaz-Canel pointed out that “hundreds of millions of people in low-income countries are still waiting for their first dose and cannot even guess if they will ever receive it.”
The WHO says only 15 percent 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 “immediately” meet their dose-sharing commitments and make the injections available to programs that benefit poor countries and Africa by. particular.
By Associated Press writer Pia Sarkar. Associated Press editors Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, Zeke Miller in Washington, David Biller in Rio de Janeiro, and Mallika Sen in New York contributed to this report.
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