Windhoek – Namibian President Hage Geingob has slammed “vaccine apartheid”, which is characterised by some countries hoarding anti-coronavirus drugs while others are struggling to get shots for their citizens.
The Namibian Head of State and Government said this Wednesday as he gave his remarks at a virtual 2021 World Health Day hosted by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom.
Figures provided by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation this week indicate Africa has received just 0.5 percent of COVID-19 vaccines distributed globally thus far.
President Giengob said his government had placed orders for COVID-19 vaccines weeks ago – ahead of many other nations – but they were yet to be delivered to the country. On the other hand,
“I wish to express my disappointment in the manner in which COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, and this points to a form of vaccine Apartheid,” said President Geingob. “Namibia is one of the countries to have paid early for the vaccines. To date, Namibia has not yet received anything and has relied on COVID-19 vaccines from friends, such as India and China. I always say that inclusivity spells harmony and exclusivity spells harmony.”
Namibia received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac on March 16, and proceeded to roll out mass vaccination on March 19. At the time of the president’s World Health Day address, the country had administered 2,094 doses of the vaccines.
The narrative is similar for other African countries. For instance, South Sudan was only able to start mass vaccinations on Tuesday, weeks after placing orders.
President Geingob said some progress had been made in the fight against the pandemic, pointing out that more could be achieved with greater global cohesion in interventions such as access to vaccines.
Looking beyond the pandemic, the Namibian leader urged “the community of nations should start considering the strategies and indeed the ways and means of building a fairer, healthier world, post-COVID-19”.
He added: “Building a fairer and healthier world will demand joint and concerted action. It will require that we, as members of the human family, stand resolutely together, to do everything that is required to return our societies to normalcy. Our people, young and old, have been traumatized. Lives and livelihoods have been disrupted.”
Meanwhile, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said immediate greater vaccination across Africa before the continent became an incubator for variants of the virus.
The NGO said as of March 15, 2021, just 23.6 million vaccines had been distributed across Africa, enough for an estimated 1.7 percent of the continent’s population. The figure represents just 0.5 percent of global vaccine distribution.
“COVID-19 is an enemy that knows no borders. There will be no final victory until every person in every country is protected. With the population of over 1.3 billion, Africa is one of the most unprotected and vulnerable regions. It would be a fatal mistake to consider that the pandemic there is less severe, thus ‘Africa can wait’.
“The latest data indicates that 4.28 million cases have been recorded on the continent, presenting a nine percent rise in just one month, though even this could be a significant underestimate of the true number. At 2.7 percent the case of fatality rate in Africa is now higher than the global rate of 2.2 percent,” the foundation said.
It added, “If vaccine supply in Africa is not immediately upscaled, the continent’s frontline health workers are likely to be overwhelmed. Currently, they are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, accounting for 3.5 percent of COVID-19 cases in Africa. In this unfolding scenario, alongside the human tragedy, Africa might well become a perfect incubator for variants.”