Africa CDC Condemns Leaders for Hollow COVID-19 Vaccine Pledges

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The African Union’s health watchdog, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday accused world leaders of falling short in their pledge to share COVID-19 vaccines with poorer nations, noting that their failure risked making the viral disease endemic.

Africa is facing a COVID-19 resurgence as it lags in the global vaccination drive, with just 3.18 per cent of its 1.3-billion population fully inoculated.

“We cannot continue to politicise this situation by making statements that we do not follow through with firm commitments,” John Nkengasong, head of Africa CDC, said. 

“Pledges do not put vaccines into peoples’ arms.”

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Across the continent, cases are rising at an alarming rate.

More than 40 countries are experiencing a third wave of infection and six are grappling with their fourth, even as life in many wealthy nations is returning to normal thanks to high inoculation figures. 

Facing anger over unequal access to vaccines, the Group of Seven industrialised powers pledged in June to provide a billion COVID-19 vaccines for developing nations, up from 130 million promised in February. 

The G7 plan also included commitments to avert future pandemics – slashing time taken to develop and licence vaccines to under 100 days, reinforcing global surveillance, and strengthening the WHO.

But Nkengasong said the doses had yet to materialise.

“We have not seen a billion vaccines,” he told an online press briefing. 

“We are not as a continent very keen in any definition of vaccine diplomacy that would mean people make statements in the media that are not backed with reality,” he added.

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday urged rich nations to give priority to getting first jabs for health workers and vulnerable populations in poorer nations over giving booster vaccination to their own citizens.

It is estimated that Africa will need 1.5 billion vaccine doses to immunise 60 per cent of its inhabitants and achieve some level of herd immunity. 

“We are not going to win this war against the pandemic if we do not vaccinate everybody at speed,” said Nkengasong.

“Otherwise we should brace ourselves to live with this virus as an endemic disease going forward.”

(AFP)

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