President Cyril Ramaphosa says poor countries need vaccines as much as other nations that have already started vaccinating their citizens.
“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and some countries are not vaccinating,” said President Ramaphosa on Tuesday.
The President did not hold back as he raised concerns about vaccine nationalism during a virtual State of the World Address at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Dialogues.
“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from developers and manufacturers, and some countries have even gone beyond and acquired four times what their population needs,” he said.
According to the President, this was done to the exclusion of countries in the world that also need the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine.
The Statesman has applauded efforts by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to set up the COVAX facility to agglomerate all acquisition processes, so that there can be equity in the distribution of and access to vaccines.
“Now, rich countries in the world are holding onto these vaccines. So, we’re saying, release the excess vaccines that you’ve ordered and hoarded.
“There’s just no need for a country, which perhaps has 40 million people, to acquire 120 million doses or even 160 million, yet the world needs access to those vaccines,” the President said.
In realising how the world’s richest countries are behaving, President Ramaphosa said the AU member States set up the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).
According to the President, the move has been “marginally successful”, securing a provisional 270 million doses for African countries directly through vaccine manufacturers.
This is in addition to the 600 million doses that are expected from the COVAX initiative.
“But we need those who have hoarded the vaccines to release the vaccines so that other countries can have them,” said the President.
However, African countries need financial assistance.
“We’re not saying just give them away, but we’re also saying… do make them available so that those countries who don’t have access right now can have [vaccines].
“We must all act together in combating Coronavirus because it affects us all equally. Therefore, our remedies and actions to combat it must also be equal and overarching for all of us, and not be something that special or certain countries have on their own to the exclusion of others,” the President said.
South Africa, he said, has not been spared, with the pandemic taking a heavy toll on the nation.