African experts call for end to vaccine nationalism to boost pandemic fight

A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, August 2, 2021,Miyer Juana/Getty Images

Rich countries should end vaccine nationalism that is to blame for a supply crunch in Africa and slowing down efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the continent, experts said at a webinar on accelerating COVID-19 vaccination in Africa on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. /Getty Images

Michel Sidibe, the African Union’s special envoy for the African Medicines Agency, said that the rich north has a responsibility to stop hoarding vaccines that has been counterproductive to the pandemic fight.

He stressed that vaccine equity is key to averting the emergence of new coronavirus strains, hastening recovery and strengthening the resilience of Africa’s public health systems.

Speaking at the webinar convened by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think-tank, Sidibe noted that Africa’s battle against the pandemic has suffered headwinds amid vaccine nationalism.

Agnes Binagwaho, vice-chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity and former Rwandese Minister for Health, noted that delayed vaccination could lead to a 3 percent loss to Africa’s GDP, adding that multilateral efforts should be intensified to end nationalism and boost access to the life-saving commodity.

She faulted some rich nations that have explored the possibility of third booster shots, saying the move will only deny low-income countries in Africa the opportunity to immunize high-risk groups.

Aloysius Uche Ordu, director in the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings Institution, said there was an urgency to address vaccine nationalism and price hikes that have constrained supply in Africa where new variants have derailed a return to normalcy besides exerting pressure on public health facilities.

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