Windhoek – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated the need to fairly distribute COVID-19 vaccines as a third wave of the pandemic looms large in Southern Africa.
Namibian President Hage Geingob last month decried the current state of affairs, where African countries struggle to access the drugs, as nothing short of vaccine apartheid.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has also called for an end to vaccine nationalism, while Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness – in an Africa Day message – said the exploitative international relations should be ended once and for all.
Addressing the World Health Assembly this week, President Ramaphosa said: “This pandemic has made us more aware of our strengths and vulnerabilities. It has also demonstrated how interconnected we are and how dependent we are on each other for our health and well-being. Millions of people in wealthier nations have been vaccinated, while billions of people in poorer countries still wait and are still vulnerable to infection, disease and death.”
He continued: “We all need to work together to correct this. This is not only a moral imperative. Effective and comprehensive global vaccination is vital to ending the pandemic. None of us can hope to be safe unless we are all safe.”
President Ramaphosa rallied the developing world to improve its vaccine manufacturing capacity in particular, and health systems in general.
“We need to invest in our national health systems, understanding that these are vital to the health of our people and the sustainability of our economies. While the pandemic has exposed some of the weaknesses in our respective health systems, it has also required decisive measures to strengthen them.
“In our case, for example, we have had to respond to the fragmentation of our health system, integrating services between the public and private sectors and improving coordination between the different spheres of government. We improved our capacity to do genomic analysis, relied more on scientific evidence to manage the pandemic, improved diagnostics and increased oxygen supplies,” he said.
On Africa Day, Prime Minister Holness said: “Africa cannot be denied opportunities, nor can the Caribbean, if we are to truly advance the ethos that no one must be left behind. It cannot be morally justified that rich countries, many of whom gained their wealth and scientific advantage through the exploitation of Africa and its people, now use this wealth and scientific advantage to hoard and stockpile vaccines, while the poor and historically exploited and deprived countries wait in uncertainty to access equitable and consistent supplies, their populations at risk and their economies on pause.
“It would be the greatest setback for mankind if inequitable vaccine access were to cause uneven recovery and a widening of the development gap between rich and poor globally.”