The inequity in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine became sharper on Thursday as many African countries with populations with little or no access to life-saving vaccines took the podium to speak at the annual meeting world leaders of the UN.
Already, 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. “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 to enable more countries, especially low-income countries and intermediary, to produce vaccines against COVID-19.
Angolan President João Lourenço 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 Lourenço.
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.
Benido Impouma, program director of the Africa program of the World Health Organization, noted during a weekly videoconference that the increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19 is starting to subside in Africa “but with 108 000 new cases, more than 3,000 lives lost in the 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 world immunization summit held virtually on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Wednesday, President Joe 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.
The move comes as world leaders, aid groups and global health organizations raise their voices over slow global immunizations and unequal access to vaccines among residents of wealthier countries. and the poorest.
The World Health Organization says only 15% of pledged vaccine donations – from wealthy countries that have access to large quantities of vaccines – 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 for programs that benefit poor countries and Africa by. particular.
Biden earlier this year broke with his European allies to agree to waivers of intellectual property rights for vaccines, but there was no movement on Wednesday towards the needed global consensus on the issue required by the rules of the ‘World organization of commerce.
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 that the waivers for very complex vaccines would lead to improved production.
Associated Press editors Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, Zeke Miller in Washington, and Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations contributed to this report. Follow Pia Sarkar on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PiaSarkar—TK
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