‘Vaccine nationalism’: the big divide

Published January 27, 2021, 6:29 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

None of the world’s 29 poorest countries has formally started mass Covid-19 vaccination drives, while the richest nations have given more than two thirds of the 69 million jabs administered so far.

With the European Union suspecting drug companies may be selling doses to the highest bidder, and South Africa warning against “vaccine nationalism” and hoarding, an AFP tally Tuesday found 69 percent, or 47.5 million doses, have been given to the world’s wealthiest populations.

“Rich countries are rolling out vaccines, while the world’s least-developed countries watch and wait,” World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lamented on Monday.

“Every day that passes, the divide grows larger between the world’s haves and have nots,” he told a press conference at which he warned against “vaccine nationalism”.

The favoured ones include 49 countries mainly in North America, Europe and the Gulf which have already launched their mass vaccination drives.

Of the poor countries Guinea is acting as a pioneer, having vaccinated a couple of dozen as a trial.

Middle income countries are not faring well either, with only the richest among them — including China, Russia, Turkey and Brazil — getting 28 percent of the total jabs on offer.

– ‘Vaccine nationalism’ –

The state of play has fuelled growing concerns that bilateral deals between wealthier governments and coronavirus vaccine manufacturers could hike prices and limit supply in some regions.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday accused rich countries of bulk-buying the vaccines and hoarding them to the detriment of others.

Addressing the all-virtual 2021 World Economic Forum (WEF), Ramaphosa said low- and middle-income countries were being sidelined by wealthier nations able to acquire “up to four times what their population needs”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice to the concerns, urging a “fair” distribution of the vaccines across the world.

– Israel leads the way –

Israel is by far leading the way in the vaccine race, with 31 percent of its population having received at least one dose.

The United Kingdom has given jabs to around 10 percent of its population and the United States, the world’s worst-stricken country to nearly six percent of its people.

The world’s richest countries and the more well off middle income countries have 97 percent of the doses in their hands.

The remaining three percent have been given in India, which has injected more than two million doses.

On Sunday Egypt became the second country in the lower tier of the middle income countries to launch its vaccination campaign.

The WHO and its official vaccine coalition Gavi have set up a mechanism to distribute vaccines to poorer countries, but not a single dose has yet been administered.

The programme is lacking the billions of dollars needed to achieve the goal of providing doses to 20 percent of the population of target countries by the end of the year.