Thursday, 23 September 2021

United States of America: The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies, and how that gap can severely undermine global health security.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said this on Wednesday during the global COVID-19 Summit hosted by United States President Joe Biden on the side lines of the UN General Assembly.

Currently, Africa is lagging far behind its counterparts, with only 2% of the population vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the US, that number is 55% and in August, the European Union announced that 70% of its adult population had been fully vaccinated.

President Ramaphosa said the gulf is widening between better-resourced nations who are buying up and even hoarding vaccines, and developing countries who are struggling to have access to vaccines.

“Of the around six billion vaccine doses administered worldwide, only 2% of these have been administered in Africa, a continent of more than 1.2 billion people. This is unjust and immoral,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President said a structured plan on how to combat the virus must be put in place and gave support to the establishment of a global health Financial Intermediary Fund for pandemic preparedness.

“This summit must come up with a sustainable plan on how developing countries will be supported, not only to meet targets around vaccination, oxygen, diagnostics, personal protective equipment but also for manufacturing,” President Ramaphosa said.

During the summit, President Biden announced his country will be donating at least 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to developing countries, with another $370 million committed to help deliver and administer the vaccines.

“The United States is leading the world on vaccination donations.  We need… other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges. That’s why…we’re launching the EU-U.S. vaccine partnership to work more closely together and with our partners on expanding global vaccinations.

“And as we do so, we should unite around the world on a few principles: that we commit to donating, not selling — donating, not selling, doses to low- and lower-income countries, and that the donations come with no political strings attached; and that we support COVAX as the main distributor for sharing WHO-approved vaccines,” President Biden said.

President Ramaphosa welcomed the donations but repeated the call that countries should be allowed to produce their own vaccine.

“We… reiterate our proposal that developing countries should be enabled to manufacture their own vaccines, as well as to procure them directly. South Africa and India have proposed that the WTO should approve the proposal we have made for the waiver of the TRIPS provision,” President Ramaphosa said.

Currently, the TRIPS agreement prohibits self-manufacturing of vaccines because of intellectual rights on the technologies and information needed to do so.