Unequal access to vaccination against Covid-19: Africa, America, and Europe

April 07, 2021 | by: David Kodjani

The gap between the number of vaccines administered in rich and poor countries "widens" and becomes "grotesque": the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, did not masked his dismay, Monday March 22, 2021, to describe the unequal situation that prevails in access to vaccination against Covid-19.

Africa, where almost all countries depend on the Covax solidarity mechanism to receive their first doses, is the first concerned. This initiative, under the aegis of the WHO, aims to ensure free immunization of 20% of the population of 92 low- and middle-income countries by the end of the year. As of March 22, 15.2 million doses had been delivered to the countries of the continent out of the 600 million promised.

To reverse this order of things, South Africa and India have been trying for five months to breach the World Trade Organization (WTO) by advocating for a temporary lifting of intellectual property rights on vaccines and other medical products needed to fight the pandemic. Without success. The text submitted to the 164 member countries has still not been examined and, by the admission of those who are opposed to it, everything is done to keep the discussion going " in circles".

However, the proposal of the two emerging countries has the support of a hundred States (including the Africa group at the WTO), large humanitarian NGOs and the Director General of the WHO. "If we don't lift patent rights today, then under what other circumstance will we do it?" ", Calls out to the former Ethiopian minister of health, even if it means offending the most powerful members of his institution.

The United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, the European Union (EU) and now the United States - which returned to the WHO after Donald Trump's withdrawal in July 2020 - do not want to hear about this exemption from the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (Adpic).

The assertion does not convince. WHO Director of Immunization Programs for Africa, Richard Mihigo, knows the subject well: "It doesn't work. No country, especially when it is poor, can quickly force a laboratory to give up its vaccine. And you will observe that in the case of this pandemic, no one has tried to resort to compulsory licensing against AstraZeneca or Pfizer to resolve their supply issues.

"Africaimports 99% of thevaccinesthey need. The Covid-19 pandemic is a cruel reminder of this absolute dependence. The financing of major vaccination campaigns against measles, polio, diphtheria, etc., is provided for the most part by international aid, in particular through initiatives such as GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

It is thanks to this alliance that some West African countries benefit from AstraZeneca vaccines.

In Senegal, the government bought 200,000 doses of vaccines from the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm. Senegal received the first doses of this order on February 17. Vaccination has therefore started for healthcare workers and people at risk. The country has 16 million inhabitants. According to data from Covax, Senegal will have to receive 1.104 million doses of AstraZeneca from the end of the first quarter and during the second quarter.

Nigeria, the most populous country on the continent with 195 million inhabitants, bought at the end of January a hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine but the government is also counting on international aid. 4 million doses of AstraZeneca were delivered on March 2 with the Covax device. A total of 13.4 million is expected to be delivered in multiple deliveries by Covax by the end of the first quarter and the second quarter of the year.

Mauritania on Friday March 26 began its vaccination campaign against Covid-19 using the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. The country received its first vaccine delivery a few days ago, 50,000 doses of Sinopharm given by China. She expects more than 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under the international Covax system. The country has a little over 4 million inhabitants.

Mali received 396,000 doses of anti-COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, March 5, at Bamako airport, thanks to the Covax device. 1.332 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine should be delivered by the end of the first quarter and the second quarter of the year. Mali, a country at war, has 19 million inhabitants.

Chad (15.4 million inhabitants) is counting on the 1.080 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the Covax mechanism can provide for the end of the first trimester and the second trimester.

Niger has received 400,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China and consumables to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The vaccine shipment that was received at Niamey airport also includes 300,000 antigen tests, masks, clothing, protective gloves and glasses, infrared thermometers and shoe covers, according to the ministry. The country will normally receive 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca through the Covax mechanism for a population of 22 million.

Benin should receive from the end of the first quarter doses of vaccines provided by Covax. More than 792,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India are expected.

Togo, with 7.8 million inhabitants, has already received its first batch of 156,000 doses and should receive another 540,000 doses at the end of the first quarter.

The Gambia has received 30,000 free doses of Covid-19 vaccines funded by the Covax device. 10,000 doses have also been granted by Senegal. The Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa of about two million inhabitants, has recorded 4,712 cases of Covid-19, including 150 fatalities, since the onset of the disease in March 2020.

Sierra Leone has launched its campaign vaccine against Covid-19 on March 15, which will use vaccines from the Chinese company Sinopharm and those from the Swedish-British laboratory AstraZeneca. President Julius Maada Bio received an injection of one of some 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine offered by Beijing.

Côte d'Ivoire (25 million inhabitants) began vaccination at the end of February after receiving 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine as part of the COVAX mechanism. The vaccines sent to Côte d'Ivoire (and Ghana) were the first to be deployed within the framework of COVAX. The Ivorian government should receive 1,740,000 doses in total, via the UN system. The government had also placed the order for 100,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, but this was several weeks late and still has not arrived.

Ghana received 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine from the manufacturer Serum Institute of India in Pune, India, at the end of February, thanks to the Covax device. The country began its vaccination campaign soon after reception and successfully vaccinated 420,000 people in two weeks. The Covax program has provided for the total delivery of 2,052,000 doses of AstraZeneca to 30 million people.

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