Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Switzerland: The World Health Organisation (WHO) and a group of global health leaders on Tuesday issued an urgent call for vaccine equity globally, particularly in Africa.

“The leaders stressed that the worst pandemic in the last hundred years will not end unless and until, there is genuine global cooperation on vaccine supply and access,” the statement read.

They also reiterated the WHO’s global vaccination target for 70% of the population of all countries to be vaccinated by mid-2022.

WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said more than 5.7 billion doses have been given globally, but only 2% of those have been administered in Africa.

“This doesn’t only hurt the people of Africa, it hurts all of us,” he lamented.

“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 believes that vaccine sharing is good but the world should not have to be relying on vaccine sharing when structures can be put in place for other countries to buy the much-needed jabs.

“American taxpayers, European taxpayers, they financed some of this intellectual property and it should be for the common good. So, it is not wrong that we say there should be waivers, it was for the common good. So, we ask for this intellectual property to be made available.

“It was a great miracle to have these vaccines, now let this miracle be available to all mankind.”

In addition, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Vera Songwe, told the delegates it costs the continent $29 billion of production for every month of lockdowns.

“For [the African continent], when we say that COVID-19 is an economic issue and we need to respond to it, to be able to recover and reset our economies, it is real.”

WHO Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said the continuous challenge is that global supplies are not being shared in ways that will get the world out of this pandemic.

“Hundreds of WHO staff are on the ground, ready to support countries to expand vaccination sites and to manage the complexities of small deliveries of a variety of vaccines,” she said, adding that African nations have successfully done it before by implementing massive vaccination campaigns against polio, yellow fever and cholera.

The agency stated that almost 90% of high-income countries have now reached the 10% target, and more than 70% have reached the 40% target.

Meanwhile, not a single low-income country has reached either target.

Globally, 5.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered, of which 80% have been distributed in high- and upper-middle-income countries.

“High-income countries have now administered almost 100 doses for every 100 people. Meanwhile, low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply.”

Safe and effective vaccines alone cannot solve the pandemic, the WHO explained.

“Robust surveillance supported by rapid diagnostics, early clinical care and lifesaving therapeutics, provided by well-trained health workers who can work in safe conditions. Public health and social measures are also vital to end the pandemic and accelerate global recovery.”