African Union (AU) has implored COVID-19 vaccine producers to give the continent a fair shot at market access so that African countries can buy the vaccines rather than keep waiting for donor-funded doses to arrive.
The AU also urged manufacturing nations to lift export bans so the continent can begin to address for itself the glaring inequity in access to coronavirus jabs, as wealthy nations hog available doses.
In addition, the AU has set up the African COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, or AVAT, to purchase jabs for member states in a scheme to run alongside the donor-funded global Covax facility.
Strive Masiyiwa, the AU’s COVID-19 special envoy, told a press conference at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva that even though vaccine sharing is good, the continent should not rely on that.
“We want to buy from those same manufacturers. The major COVID-19 vaccine producers have a moral responsibility to ensure equitable access to end the pandemic, but those manufacturers know very well that they never gave us proper access,” Masiyiwa said.
Masiyiwa said Africa was also setting up its own manufacturing capabilities and called for a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights on the vaccines, as a common good.
But the Zimbabwean telecoms mogul, who has been negotiating with vaccine suppliers, said lifting export restrictions would remove the most pressing issue preventing Africa from accessing more doses immediately.
He said: “It was a great miracle to have these vaccines. Now let this miracle be available to all mankind.”
World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus disclosed that
African nations have been left behind in the vaccination drive as compared to the rest of the world.
The UN health agency chief spelled out the danger of leaving Africa so poorly covered by vaccines.
“This doesn’t only hurt the people of Africa, it hurts all of us, the longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing, the longer the social and economic disruption will continue, and the higher the chances that more variants will emerge that render vaccines less effective,” Ghebreyesus said.
The WHO wants 40 percent fully immunised in every country by the end of the year and 70 percent of the world’s population by mid-2022.
It has called for countries to hold off administering extra booster shots until the end of December to allow more people to get a first dose instead.
According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, under 3.5 percent of the eligible African population has been fully vaccinated.
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