Naledi Pandor blasts rich countries for hogging vaccine
International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, has once again shone the spotlight on vaccine nationalism.
Speaking during her opening remarks as the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Executive Council, Pandor said the most important public health measure to prevent COVID-19 is a vaccine.
However, she raised concerns about the cost of the lifesaving jabs that have put African countries on the back burner.
“All countries must get vaccines and must get them speedily,” she said on Wednesday.
Pandor was speaking during the 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council held virtually under the theme, ‘Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want’.
She told delegates that it was important that a nation inoculate its population to achieve global containment of the pandemic.
“We are all aware of the challenges of accessing vaccines for the global South, particularly for Africa,” she said.
According to the Minister, high-income countries, which have substantial financial resources, have purchased the largest stocks, while African countries are battling to get their fair share.
“The painful irony is that some of the clinical trials for these vaccines were carried out in Africa. In other cases, vaccines are packaged right here on the continent, yet we struggle to access them for our populations.”
She said the AU’s Agenda 2063 envisions a bold, confident capable efficient AU, able to address tasks presented by an emergency of this enormity.
“In an attempt to act, India and South Africa have proposed a TRIPS [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] waiver in response to the pandemic.
“We have called on the World Trade Organisation to temporarily waive specific TRIPS obligations related to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 for a defined period and within defined parameters.”
According to Pandor, if agreed, this would enable countries in Africa and elsewhere to access active pharmaceutical ingredients and benefit from the technology transfer, including the expertise to manufacture vaccines in Africa at a cheaper cost.
The Minister called on African nations to use their unity to devise solutions that allow the continent to grow together in a post-COVID-19 era.
“This crisis has created an unprecedented opportunity to devise innovative responses to new challenges and problems. The Executive Council may need to initiate an AU-led reflection on what next, and how we should coordinate.”
She said the continent has made huge strides in containing the spread of the virus since the outbreak in March 202, which has led to securing the vaccines.
“For the past year, efforts have been underway to find vaccines that are both safe, affordable and effective. We finally have achieved the goal, with a number of vaccines having undergone clinical trials and passed stringent safety tests. The production of the vaccine has begun in earnest.”
South Africa officially received its first shipment of one million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from India on Monday.