President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged the world’s wealthier countries to stop hoarding COVID-19 vaccines and instead promote “universal, fair and equitable access.”
Ramaphosa made the call while addressing a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum on Tuesday.
‘Release hoarded vaccines’
He said, “We need 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 of vaccines. Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs to the exclusion of other countries.”
Ramaphosa, who is the outgoing chairperson of the African Union (AU), said the AU has secured a provisional 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African countries. An additional 600 million doses are expected from the COVAX initiative.
“We are deeply concerned about the problem of ‘vaccine nationalism,’ which, unless addressed, will endanger the recovery of all countries,” he however added.
“Ending the pandemic worldwide will require greater collaboration on the rollout of vaccines, ensuring that no country is left behind in this effort.
“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not vaccinating. We all must act together in combating the coronavirus.”
South Africa’s vaccine acquisition
Ramaphosa’s government has been mired in controversy over the perceived slow acquisition of the vaccines. It has secured an initial 1.5 million doses with an additional 20 million expected in the coming weeks.
It aims to achieve herd immunity by the end of they year by vaccinating at least 67 percent of the population. Deputy President David Mabuza is set to lead the vaccine rollout.
Responding to criticism that vaccine acquisition has been “slow,” Ramaphosa said in a recent interview that negotiations with manufacturers were “protracted.”
“Given the unprecedented global demand for vaccine doses, combined with the far greater buying power of wealthier countries, we had to engage in extensive and protracted negotiations with manufacturers to secure enough vaccines to reach South Africa’s adult population,” he explained.