Ramaphosa urges wealthier nations not to hoard COVID-19 vaccines

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Downing Street, London talks to the waiting media after having bilateral talk with Prime Minister Theresa May. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday appealed to the world’s richer nations not to amass excess stocks of coronavirus vaccines at the expense of poorer nations as the pandemic continues to rage on.

FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ramaphosa, who made the comments during a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, urged “those who have hoarded the vaccines to release the vaccines so that other countries can have them.”

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses. … Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs … to the exclusion of other countries,” Ramaphosa said.

The UK has ordered 367 million doses of seven different vaccines, some of which have already been approved, for its population of about 67 million, while the European Union has secured about 2.3 billion doses for its 450 million people.

The African Union, on the other hand, just secured 270 million doses for the continent. That amount is expected to be added to another 600 million doses from the COVAX scheme, a global pooled procurement mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines, which is co-led by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).

Those doses are scheduled to be availed this year but none have arrived yet, while parts of Europe, Asia and the Americas are well into their vaccination programmes.

In light of such developments, Ramaphosa stressed that African countries also wanted faster access to the jabs warning that exclusion meant the problem would not be completely solved.

“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not.”

W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on his part, last week called on vaccine manufacturers and countries to ensure fair distribution of the vaccines.

Concern has been rife for several months about the availability of a vaccine to less developed and poor countries, particularly in Africa. Several leading personalities have called for the rest of the world not to leave Africa behind in the distribution of vaccines.