Rich countries are monopolising the coronavirus vaccines, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned on Tuesday at the Davos World Economic Forum.
“We are saying: release the excess vaccines that you’ve ordered and hoarded,” he said in a video message to the summit, which is taking place in a virtual format this year.
Poor countries are being sidelined by those who can afford up to four times what their people need, he added.
The call echoes repeated warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO) against so-called “vaccine nationalism.”
WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had called on rich countries not to “cut the queue” and to make their surplus doses available to poor countries through the Covax mechanism for equitable access to vaccines.
This WHO mechanism should make it possible to vaccinate 10% of the population of the African continent during the course of the year.
Other vaccines are also to be supplied through the African Union (AU), which has pledged to provide 270 million doses to countries on the continent. But according to Ramaphosa, who himself launched the initiative when he was chairman of the AU, the initiative has so far had only “marginal success.”
Officially the most affected country on the continent, South Africa will pay 2.5 times more than European Union countries for its first vaccines, acquired through direct negotiations between the government and AstraZeneca.
The EU recently explained that it had supported the development of this vaccine financially from the outset, even before there was any guarantee that it would be effective.
Relatively spared by the first wave of the pandemic, most African countries are now undergoing a second, more aggressive wave.
The emergence of new variants of the virus, including the one discovered in South Africa and reputed to be more contagious, has also accelerated the rush for vaccines.
It is estimated that Africa will need 1.5 billion vaccines to immunise 60% of its 1.3 billion people, at a cost of between €5.8 and €8.2 billion.
The Brussels Times