The pandemic has dramatically revealed the gaps in the implementation of a global health strategy in developing countries. Africa, for example, has received only about 2% of all vaccines administered worldwide. Across Africa, only 4 vaccines per 100 people were delivered, compared to 70 vaccines per 100 people in Europe.
In South Africa, which has the continent’s strongest economy and the most infections, only 0.8% of the population has been fully immunized. In Nigeria, the largest country in Africa with over 200 million people, only 0.1% are fully immunized. And, according to the WHO, vaccine shipments to the continent have “almost stopped”.
The United States and other developed countries, which have accumulated vaccine doses, have recently started offering boosters and / or injections to their younger populations as the African continent is currently grappling with its own third wave of infections.
The African Union Special Envoy damn COVAX which had promised to deliver 700 million doses of vaccines to Africa by December. So far Africa has only received 65 million doses in total with less than 50 million doses via COVAX. The continent had purchased 400 million doses of vaccine and is still waiting to receive them because the Serum Institute of India, the main supplier of COVAX, production diverted for domestic use in India.
The European Medicines Agency, for example, is criticized for not approving Covishield, which puts Africans at a disadvantage to travel to some EU countries after the launch of the Green Pass, a digital vaccine certificate , in July.
The African Union Commission and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed their concern on the latest EU decision. Covishield is currently the most widely used COVID vaccine (over 90%) in Africa and forms the backbone of the COVAX device, which has been led by the World Health Organization and is supported by donors including the EU .
Ahead of the G7 summit in June, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would purchase an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine which will be donation under the COVAX program to 92 low-income countries and the African Union over the next year. The continued proliferation of aid from rich countries should, in theory, help boost the immunization rate in Africa.
Meanwhile, China provided 27 million doses to 40 African countries, out of the 55 million doses promised. The vaccines were donated or sold at “bargain prices”. The pace of these transactions has accelerated. Despite this, the total number of vaccines delivered to Africa from China has remained rather low compared to Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.
Historically, Chinese health care diplomacy has been driven by its belief that supporting the health capacities of African countries helps boost economic development and maintain stability. China’s strategy also underscores the importance of health financing, emergency epidemic planning, preparedness and response, and transformation of African health information systems currently led by Huawei.
At the Johannesburg Summit that followed the first China-Africa Cooperation Forum in 2006, China pledged to provide $ 60 billion in financial support to ten major Sino-African cooperation plans to be implemented in health-related areas. There are many examples of Chinese health initiatives in Africa. In 2006, the Chinese government established the CAD-Fund, with funding of approximately $ 1 billion from the Development Bank of China. For the past decade, China has helped Africa through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and it has helped West African countries fight Ebola, which caused a net loss of $ 6.2 billion in GDP in the three most affected countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea.
China’s efforts to support Africa in the fight against infectious diseases included the construction of regional and community hospitals and treatment centers, infrastructure and facilities, and it provided coaching and mentoring by Chinese medical care teams in more than a dozen countries.
This begs the question: is China using the current COVID vaccine shortage as a soft power movement to promote its political and economic interests in Africa, or is China the catalyst for a prosperous future in Africa? For Africans looking for a COVID coup, China’s motives probably don’t really matter.
Beyond the notions of “solidarity” and “gifts”, widely used for decades throughout the postcolonial era, the lesson learned from the pandemic is to reduce the disparities in health between developing countries and countries. developed. There are at least two pillars that could be immediately harnessed to enable sufficiency and address the issue of unequal access to vaccines across Africa: industrialization and joint procurement.
An example of expanding vaccine production is from Egypt, which began producing China’s Sinovac vaccine locally in June after Sinovac provided its Egyptian business partner with the license to manufacture and package the vaccine locally. In Morocco, the same business model has been duplicated by Sinopharm, another Chinese vaccine maker. Both initiatives have been successfully carried out through public / private partnerships.
In countries with limited manufacturing, filling and packaging capacity, joint procurement should ease the burden on low-middle-income countries, while allowing for cost sharing while holding countries accountable to their respective populations. public health service delivery. solutions.
In the promising land of economic prosperity, accountability and governance are the real catalysts for a nascent democracy in Africa.
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