African campaigners say vaccine hoarding impede global war against COVID-19

Cropped hand wearing a nitrile glove holding a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a syringe

Rampant hoarding of COVID-19 vaccine stockpiles by wealthy nations is to blame for slowing down progress towards containing the pandemic in Africa, campaigners said in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Samuel Kinyanjui, the Kenyan country director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), said that vaccine hoarding has escalated shortage of the life-saving device in Africa where surging infections threatens the continent’s public health systems.

He urged high-income countries to share excess stockpiles, waive patents and support the establishment of a robust COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing infrastructure in Africa.

Statistics from Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) indicate the continent had administered 42.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of June 14, while only 0.79 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated.

Among countries that have led in vaccination include Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa thanks to sound planning, the establishment of robust cold chain infrastructure and training of health workers.

He said that constructive engagement between African governments and the pharmaceutical industry in the rich world is required to facilitate the acquisition of vaccine doses at a subsidized cost.

Moreni Masanzu, regional chairperson, Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS said that vaccine nationalism has stood out as a major bottleneck to Africa’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said that equitable access to vaccines will be beneficial to both rich and low-income countries since it will help avert the emergence of highly transmissible variants and hasten the return to normalcy.

According to Masanzu, multinational pharmaceutical firms stand to gain if they negotiate for franchise arrangements with African countries to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine access in the continent.

She said that an end to vaccine hoarding will unleash benefits in the rich and low-income countries since it will hasten the realization of herd immunity that is key to full resumption of economic activities.