At the U.N.’s annual meeting, world leaders, many African countries who have limited or no access to life-saving vaccines spoke out about the inequity of COVID-19 distribution. Some members called on member states to relax intellectual rights to increase vaccine production.
The common refrain was “No one is safe unless everyone is safe.”
The president of Chad, Mahamat Idriss deby Itno, stated that the virus does not know borders or continents. “The virus will continue to spread through the countries and regions where it isn’t currently vaccinated.” We welcome the repeated appeals by the United Nations secretary-general and director general of (World Health Organization) for universal access to the vaccine. It is essential for the salvation of all humanity.
Leaders have made the struggle to stop the coronavirus epidemic a prominent theme in their speeches these past days, many of which were delivered remotely due to the virus. Every country has acknowledged the disparity in access to the vaccine. It was a grim picture that sometimes seemed impossible to fix.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa referred to vaccines “as the greatest defense humanity has against this pandemic.”
He stated that it was a concern that the global community had not maintained the principles of solidarity, cooperation and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations. “It is a disgrace to humanity that 82% of vaccines in the world have been purchased by wealthy countries while less than 1 percent has gone to low income countries.”
He and others encouraged U.N. members to support a proposal that temporarily waives certain intellectual property rights set by the World Trade Organization in order to allow more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccinations, especially low- and mid-income countries.
Joao Lourenco, president of Angola, said that it was shocking to see how different countries are in terms of availability of vaccines.
Lourenco stated that these disparities allowed for third doses in certain cases while in others, such as Africa, the vast majority of people have not received the first dose.
The U.S., Britain and France have all announced plans or begun to administer boosters.
Hage Geingob, Namibia’s president, called it “vaccine Apartheid”, a reference that is notable given Namibia’s experience with apartheid in South Africa when the white minority government of South Africa controlled South West Africa. This was Namibia’s name before independence in 1990.
Benido Impouma is a program director for the WHO’s Africa program. He noted that the increase in COVID-19 cases in Africa is beginning to slow down. However, there are still 108,000 new cases and more than 3,000 deaths in the last week. There are also 16 countries in resurgence.
Impouma stated that “Fresh rises in cases should to be expected in coming months.” “The continent’s fourth wave, if it doesn’t receive widespread vaccination and other social and public measures, is likely to be the most severe and brutal.”
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden declared that the United States would double the amount of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot to share with the rest of the world. This was in the context of the General Assembly. The goal is to vaccinate 70% of the global population by the end of next year.
This move comes at a time when world leaders, aid organizations and global health organisations are becoming increasingly vocal about the slow pace and inequity in global vaccinations and access to shots for residents of poorer and wealthier countries.