WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and a group of global health leaders have issued an urgent call for vaccine equity globally and in Africa in particular.
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.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said: “More than 5.7 billion doses have been administered 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. 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.”
They also reiterated the WHO’s global vaccination target for 70% of the population of all countries to be vaccinated by mid- 2022.
Dr Tedros was joined by Dr Seth Berkley, CEO Gavi, Strive Masiyima, AU Special Envoy for COVID- 19, Dr John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, Professor Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Afreximbank, Dr Vera Songwe, UN Under- Secretary- General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission For Africa and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Strive Masiyima, AU Special Envoy for COVID- 19, stated: “Vaccine sharing is good but we shouldn’t have to be relying on vaccine sharing. Particularly when we can come to the table, put structures in place and say, we also want to buy. 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 IP to be made available.”
The press conference followed two days of meetings among the leaders, with Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer of CEPI joining the meetings as well.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO Gavi said: “Today’s meeting is important, as it symbolizes the spirit of partnership between COVAX, the African Union and AVATT: Africa needs more doses and together we will get them. We’re poised to embark on the busiest period of what is the largest and most complex vaccine rollout in history. We’ve demonstrated that COVAX can work at scale, but it’s really time for the world to get behind it.”
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director For Africa, uttered: “The question is sometimes asked do African countries have the capacity to absorb the vaccines? The simple answer is yes. 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. What’s more, African countries have done this before – successfully implementing massive vaccination campaigns against polio, yellow fever and cholera.”