JOHANNESBURG - PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has called for greater global collaboration on the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines to ensure that people from poorer countries get vaccinated.
Ramaphosa spoke out against what he called vaccine nationalisation yesterday, telling the virtual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting that the prioritisation of national interest above collaboration had led to unequal access in the fight against a global pandemic.
Ramaphosa said that poor countries had been left facing long waits for their first doses as rich nations had gobbled nearly all the global supply of the two leading Covid-19 vaccines.
He said that South Africa was promoting the need for universal, fair and equitable access to vaccines.
Ramaphosa said that the global pandemic will not end if some countries were vaccinating while others were not.
“Coronavirus affects all of us equally, and our remedies and actions to combat it must also be equal,” Ramaphosa said.
“Ending the pandemic worldwide will require greater collaboration on the roll-out of vaccines, ensuring that no country is left behind in this effort,” he said.
The World Bank has reported that extreme poverty was expected to rise globally for the first time in more than 20 years as the disruption caused by the pandemic exacerbates the effects of conflict, climate change and underdevelopment.
A group of campaigning organisations, including Amnesty International, Frontline Aids, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, also warned that 9 out of 10 people in poor countries are set to miss out on Covid-19 vaccine this year.
World Health Organization (WHO) director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week pointed out that only 25 people had been vaccinated in Africa compared with 39 million in rich countries
Ghebreyesus said that the world was on the “brink of a catastrophic moral failure”.
The AU has established a Covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to secure and find sources of funding for sufficient vaccines.
To date, the Task Team has secured a provisional 270 million doses for African countries directly through vaccine manufacturers, in addition to the 600 million doses expected from the Covax initiative.
Gavi chief executive Seth F Berkley said that Covax wanted equitable access to the a portfolio of vaccines, to keep research and development going, and ensure readiness with regulatory systems.
Covax is planning to have 145 to 150 million doses delivered in the first quarter, he said.
“There’s a little bit of vaccine panic – many countries want doses as of today – and we are doing our best to move things forward,” Berkley said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the question of who received vaccinations would create a new narrative.
“This is the hour of multilateralism. Multilateralism does not only mean somehow working together, it also means sharing transparency,” Merkel said.
“We have to be honest that at the beginning of the pandemic we have probably not been as transparent as we ought to have been, for example the information released by China as for the origins of this virus and policy of the WHO,” Merkel said.