End COVID-19 vaccine inequalities, AHF tells EU-AU summit
Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has called on member states of the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) to take concrete steps towards addressing inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine distribution especially among African states.
This was contained in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, through Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, yesterday, ahead of the EU-AU summit holding in Belgium.
AHF urged Buhari to press world leaders in prioritising actions aimed at righting the inequities that have plagued the COVID-19 response by rapidly increasing the sharing of vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and related technologies.
The letter, which was jointly signed by AHF President, Michael Weinstein; AHF Africa Bureau Chief, Dr. Penninah Lutung and AHF Europe Bureau, Chief, Zoya Shabarova, lamented the relationship between the EU and AU in responding to COVID-19, which, according to them, can only be described as perfunctory charity.
The letter notes: “This is not real cooperation. The pandemic has made it abundantly clear – a global public health crisis cannot be solved piecemeal; it requires genuine partnership and cooperation. We will only find a way out of the pandemic if the two continents work together as equals. We urge you to instill this principle as motto of the summit. There is no viable alternative to this approach. If wealthy countries continue to hoard vaccines or send nearly expired doses to Africa, the cycle of deadly waves and variants will continue for a long time.”
Specifically, to address the glaring disparity in vaccine availability between Africa and Europe, the body urged leaders of both regions to commit to the following actions:
Support the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver on vaccine patents and technologies at the World Trade Organisation; make vaccines readily available to everyone who needs them; ensure vaccines have a sufficiently long shelf life to avoid unnecessary wastage; expand local generic vaccine manufacturing, technological capacity, and scientific know-how.
Others are: end pandemic profiteering by pharma companies; fund the vaccine distribution infrastructure and human resources; and maintain a transparent dialogue between EU and AU leaders, while engaging civil society groups in the cooperation process.
The letter notes further: “The Vaccinate Our World campaign (VOW) was initiated to address the immoral disparity in COVID-19 vaccine access between wealthy nations and those of lower economic status. To date, 10 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, with 80 per cent of those going to people in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Less than 16 per cent of the 1.3 billion people on the African continent have received at least one dose.
“The worlds’ inability to respond collectively to the COVID-19 pandemic is a stark indication that we need to urgently reform and strengthen the international framework of public health governance. To this end, we urge leaders of the EU and AU to support the adoption of a new Global Public Health Convention or treaty. Until the principles of equity, cooperation, transparency, and accountability are enshrined in an international accord, the risk of another – perhaps deadlier pandemic – looms over all of us. Esteemed EU and AU leaders, the eyes of the world are upon you – now you must act!”