'Some clinical trials were carried out in Africa': Naledi Pandor slams Covid-19 vaccine nationalism

Vaccine equity is significant in the fight to eradicate the impact of Covid-19 globally, international relations minister Naledi Pandor said on Wednesday. File Photo.
Vaccine equity is significant in the fight to eradicate the impact of Covid-19 globally, international relations minister Naledi Pandor said on Wednesday. File Photo.
Image: Alon Skuy

International relations minister Naledi Pandor has spoken out against Covid-19 vaccine nationalism, saying Africa had a part to play in developing the vaccine and yet struggled to get sufficient doses for its citizens.

She added vaccine equity is significant in the fight to eradicate the impact of the coronavirus globally.

Pandor, who is also the chairperson of the AU executive council, shared this view during the 38th ordinary session of the council, held virtually under the theme “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”. 

The minister called out financially well-off countries for hoarding most of the vaccines, saying African countries are struggling to secure their first share of the life-saving jabs.

“We are all aware of the challenges of accessing vaccines for the global south, particularly for Africa. The painful irony is that some of the clinical trials for these vaccines were carried out in Africa. In other cases, some vaccines are packaged right here on the continent, yet we struggle to access them for our populations,” she said.

SA on Monday received one million AstraZeneca doses, which will be administered to health-care workers during the first phase of the vaccine rollout plan. AstraZeneca is produced by the Serum Institute of India.

In a piece published in Foreign Policy on Tuesday, World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus argued that the current vaccine manufacturing capacity only serves a fraction of the global population, despite the growing number of options.

He said while vaccination is the only thing that gives the global community a fighting chance against the pandemic, a threat of unnecessary deaths and illness looms if global leaders “succumb to vaccine nationalism”.

He said co-operation between nations has weakened and compromised the level of vaccination required globally to end the pandemic.

“At present, rich countries with just 16% of the world's population have bought up to 60% of the world’s vaccine supply. Many of these countries aim to vaccinate 70% of their adult population by midyear in pursuit of herd immunity,” he said.

Because of this, he said, Covax “is struggling to purchase enough doses to cover just 20% of the population of lower-income countries by the end of 2021.” 

During a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa called out rich countries for hoarding the vaccine.

He said they must release some of the life-saving doses to allow for a fair distribution.

“We need those who have hoarded the vaccines to release the vaccines so that other countries can have them,” said Ramaphosa.

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines ... Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs ... to the exclusion of other countries.”

TimesLIVE


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