The COVAX Scheme Hitch: Rich Countries ‘Deliberately’ Keep COVID Jabs From Africa

Written by | Friday, July 2nd, 2021

The world’s richest nations have deliberately failed to provide enough COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, according to Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union’s special envoy to the African vaccine acquisition task team. Masiyiwa also raised questions over the failure of Covax scheme to provide promised doses to the continent, accusing the European Union and other wealthy actors to have failed on their promise to secure production of 700 million doses of vaccines in time for delivery by December 2021. “It’s not a question of if this was a moral failure, it was deliberate. Those with the resources pushed their way to the front of the queue and took control of their production assets,” Masiyiwa told a panel discussion hosted by CNBC (23 June). What’s worse is that Africa was facing “an economic calamity”, with growth this year forecast to be half of the 6% expected globally, Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, has warned. “The warning signs are clear: a two-track pandemic is leading to a two-track recovery. Africa is already falling behind in terms of growth prospects,” Georgieva said.
“Imagine we are in a village and there is drought and there will not be enough bread and the richest guys grabs the baker and they take control of the production of bread and we all have to go to those [rich] guys to ask for a loaf of bread,” Masiyiwa said. According to the London-based Zimbabwean billionaire businessman and philanthropist, if ever there was an inquiry into how vaccines have been distributed, Covax – an initiative by the World Health Organization to enable poor countries to get free vaccines – would be found culpable, “because we were misled”. He said that when he met vaccine manufacturers in December last year, he was told that all production capacity for 2021 had been sold. “So, the people who bought the vaccines and those who sold them the vaccines, knew that there would be nothing for us,” he said. While the UK has fully vaccinated 47% of its citizens and the US has vaccinated 45%, less than 1% of Africa’s population have been fully vaccinated. The continent has so far administered about 40 million vaccine doses, in a population of 1.3 billion people.
In a separate but related development, the Switzerland-based Health Policy Watch has rebuked the European Union for excluding most Covax vaccine recipients from new EU COVID ‘Green Pass’. The independent global health reporting platform says that the much-trumpeted COVID Digital Green Pass, which launches 1 July and is meant to vastly ease travel to Europe for vaccinated and recovered passengers, is being rolled out with one important hitch. Anyone vaccinated with an AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India would not be qualified to get the pass – and that includes most citizens of low- and middle-income countries who were immunized with vaccines distributed by the WHO co-sponsored Covax initiative. The double standard of EU recognition for identical AstraZeneca vaccines is beginning to send ripples across the African continent and African media – stimulating anger as well as stoking vaccine hesitancy, as reported by the French media channel, this week. „This vaccine was given to us by the WHO and welcomed by the European Union and all the UN agencies,” Madagascar’s Minister of Health, Jean-Louis Rakotovao-Hanitrala, was quoted as saying. That, he said “makes us wonder if there is not one vaccine for Africans and another for Europeans”.

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