Vaccine distribution exposes glaring global health inequity

This year’s World Health Day was marked on Wednesday against the backdrop of a raging pandemic highlighted with inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccine.

Rich countries have taken the lead in the race to inoculate their populations against COVID-19 and restore economic activity, leaving developing countries, especially in Africa, wondering why they’ve been left behind.

African media have run reports accusing some Western nations of an irrational hoarding of vaccines. South Africa’s Daily Maverick online newspaper said vaccine nationalism is posing a major threat to Africa as the West gobbles up supplies. 

In Kenya’s capital Nairobi, people have to wait in long queues and jostle for jabs, with some elderly people reportedly waking up as early as 6 a.m. for a vaccination, only to return home to try their luck again the next day.

Because of limited supplies, those with a single jab remain worried the window could close for a second shot to complete the vaccination. 

African countries have so far received a little over 29 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from different sources, including the World Health Organisation’s COVAX programme and through bilateral agreements, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Some 10.3 million doses have been administered, with the majority of those vaccinated being healthcare workers, people with comorbidities, and those aged 50 years and above, the Africa CDC said Sunday.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccines have not yet arrived in up to 10 African countries as of March 25, according to the WHO.

In comparison, U.S. media reported that the world’s largest economy is estimated to have received 240 million doses of vaccine by the end of March, enough to fully vaccinate 130 million people. 

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, standing alongside some of his counterparts from Southeast Asia in China’s northeastern province of Fujian, said that rich nations with 16 per cent of the world’s population have acquired 60 per cent of the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, calling the situation regrettable.

Dr Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the Immunisation and Vaccine Development Programme at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, said the slowing pace of COVAX supplies risks widening the gap between the worlds vaccinated and unvaccinated.  -Xinhua

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