‘Vaccine justice for Africa’ - Adesina

22 March 2021 | Health

The president of the African Development Bank Dr. Akinwumi Adesina decried the lack of Covid-19 vaccines reaching Africa, calling for vaccine justice for the continent.

“We need global solidarity and vaccine justice for Africa,” Adesina said at the launch of the bank’s African Economic Outlook 2021 report.

He underlined the stark disparities between vaccine acquisitions by several rich countries that have acquired sufficient vaccines to inoculate their populations twice over, while African countries remain primarily dependent on the World Health Organisation’s COVAX initiative for the minuscule quantities of vaccines acquired so far.

He said that 14.6 million vaccines have been delivered to Africa, but many people still cannot get shots.

“It is only 1% of what we need. We are way off the mark in terms of getting to 60% of herd immunity, and sadly, I do not see that happening for another year or two at this rate – not unless things change.”

More needs to be done

According to Adesina, there is a need to improve Africa’s access to vaccines.

“COVAX is doing a great job but we need more. We need it in adequate quantities. We need them quickly and we need them at an affordable price.”

Adesina emphasized that rapid vaccine acquisition is a matter of life and death.

“As elsewhere, Africa’s priority is to prolong lives and preserve jobs. The slow pace of acquiring vaccines and arresting the pandemic will make stemming extreme poverty and negative economic growth difficult. A comprehensive global plan is needed to help countries cope with mounting debt, which the pandemic had compounded.”

Africa’s economy is expected to grow by 3.1% in 2021. However, 39 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty this year because of the pandemic unless the international community takes the kind of action that Adesina is calling for now.

He opines that if Africans remain unvaccinated, the world will go right back to square one.

“No amount of ‘vaccine passports’ being advocated for by some developed countries could change that fact. Africa needs to develop its pharmaceutical industry and begin manufacturing. The African Development Bank is going to support African countries to do this.”

International support

Professor Joseph Stiglitz, recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences for Africa supports this position.

“It is in the self-interest of advanced countries to make sure that everybody has access to the vaccine and other related medicines. The longer the disease festers in any part of the world, it can mutate and one of the things we know is that those mutations are not going to respect borders. The Covid 19 virus doesn’t carry a passport.”

Other notable African voices that have called for speeding up vaccine delivery to Africa are those of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong.

– APO

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