Vaccine inequity is hurting Africa when it shouldn’t



A health worker holds a bottle at the FF Ribeiro clinic at the Sammy Marks Square vaccination site in Pretoria, South Africa, May 25, 2021. / VCG

A health worker holds a bottle at the FF Ribeiro clinic at the Sammy Marks Square vaccination site in Pretoria, South Africa, May 25, 2021. / VCG

Editor’s Note: Hamzah Rifaat Hussain is a former Visiting Scholar at the Stimson Center in Washington and Associate Scholar at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in Pakistan. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

In May 1994, millions of South Africans, regardless of race, color or creed, took advantage of an agreement reached between then-President Frederick De Klerk and the leader of the African National Congress. , Nelson Mandela, to dismantle the system of “apartheid” or racial segregation in favor of a plural, multi-ethnic and tolerant South Africa. The reversal of state-sponsored discrimination was also to usher in an era where equitable access to facilities ranging from education to health care was to be provided to all citizens without discrimination.

The case of South Africa serves as an inspiration for other countries on the continent. But fast forward to 2021, the whole of the African continent is witnessing brakes of a different type, just as, if not more, deleterious.

The toxic combination of hypercapitalism, commercialism and predatory business practices in the absence of unconditional support is perpetuated instead of alleviating the continent’s COVID-19 quagmire. A 20 percent week-over-week increase in cases from Tanzania to South Africa once again highlights the lack of unhindered access and unconditional vaccinations that lead to the scenarios that unfold. unfold.

WHO Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said Africa is going through its third wave with staggering numbers of less than 1 percent of its diverse population currently vaccinated. Africa certainly does not deserve this or cosmetic promises, which do not have a ripple effect on local populations.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa receives a COVID-19 vaccine injected at Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa on February 17, 2021. / VCG

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa receives a COVID-19 vaccine injected at Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa on February 17, 2021. / VCG

In truth, the promises made by some of the world’s most powerful economies were less about designing innovative neoliberal policies on vaccine delivery that impact the lives of millions of people, including Africans, than a platform. unnecessary political wrangling. Even Amnesty International has censored promises to deliver 1 billion doses to middle- and low-income countries as just a ‘drop in the ocean’ and, in the case of Africa, UN-designated LDCs or Least developed countries requiring extreme assistance such as Togo, Uganda and Zambia were not taken into account.

In addition, the inability to deviate from vaccine intellectual property rules and engage in knowledge transfers that are a lifeline for African economies, has resulted in these persistent quagmires with spikes in cases and deaths reaching nearly 30 and 15% on a weekly basis and five countries (including two LDCs) – South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia, Uganda and Namibia – accounting for 76 percent of cases.

The reality is that shortages of hospital beds and oxygen supplies from Malawi to Mozambique stand in stark contrast to munificence commitments as Africa continues to suffer. The line of breathing continues to be multilateral agreements sanctioned by the WHO, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations such as COVAX.

Yet the problem is less with unconditional global arrangements and more with the blatant refusal of unconditional support. African countries Sao Tome and Principe, Morocco, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Ghana are facing supply chain issues after consuming 90 percent of their stocks according to assessments by WHO.

These glaring realities are a by-product of the denial of vaccination and the absence of a systematic, concerted and targeted campaign to ensure maximum vaccinations on the continent by human rights defenders. All of this comes amid revelations that vaccine sales and profits from the pandemic are leading to the proliferation of nine new pandemic billionaires in sight of the world. This is iniquity at its best. Conversely, sub-Saharan Africa, which includes poverty-stricken and conflict-ridden states such as Mauritania and Mali, has vaccinated less than 2 percent of its population.

The international system has been ideally constructed to ensure that heavily exploited countries, with due respect for their inherent state sovereignty over resources, are not subject to the effects of neoliberal corporate globalization or unequal trade in commodities, less vaccines. It is not possible for African economies to achieve Western immunization levels given the wide disparity in accessibility and the urgent need for acceleration supplies to curb the third wave on the continent is the only way to address the inequality. Rest assured, failure to do so would result in an even more staggering number than the people of the continent and the world can afford.

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