UK, EU, and US received more vaccines in six weeks than Africa did in the whole of 2021

·3-min read
The UK, EU, and the US have received more doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the last six weeks than African countries have all year (PA)
The UK, EU, and the US have received more doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the last six weeks than African countries have all year (PA)

When the seriousness of coronavirus became clear in early 2020 and work ramped up on manufacturing a vaccine, campaigners foresaw the issue of roll out inequality.

Later in the year as news of vaccine efficacy dominated global headlines, they approached leaders and pharmaceutical companies to ensure low-to-middle-income countries would not be pushed out when demand for jabs peaked.

“We were told which countries bought all of the vaccines in the first wave and were reassured that everyone else will get them in the next few months,” Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, told The Independent.

“It’s clear that’s not happening, especially as we need boosters… what that means is that vaccine inequality is deepening with every month that goes by.”

New analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA) has shown the UK, European Union and US has received more vaccines in the last six weeks than the African continent has received throughout this year.

According to the data, between 11 November and 21 December wealthier countries have gotten hold of 513 million doses, while African countries have acquired only 500 million doses over 12 months.

Alongside these findings, figures from Our World in Data show 448.5 million people in high-income countries have received a booster while only 53.6 million people in low-income countries have received their first dose during the same period.

The majority of Covid vaccines delivered to the African continent this year have been sporadic donations often close to their expiry date. This ad hoc approach has resulted in chaos upon delivery as underequipped healthcare services struggle to administer the vaccine.

“When many countries receive these donations, they are in a huge batch … when you think about how difficult it is for high-income countries to organise a roll out, you can’t just dump a load of vaccines on low-income countries and expect they are going to reach people’s arms within a few weeks. They need to be able to plan and they need investment in their health centres,” says Dearden.

During a meeting of G7 leaders in Cornwall this June, a pledge was made to deliver one billion vaccines to low-income countries over the next year but already those targets are being missed.

While prime minister Boris Johnson described the move as a “big step towards vaccinating the world”, the UK has only donated 15 per cent of the 100 million doses it has promised.

Vaccine hesitancy across the African continent has often been an issue of concern for global leaders.

However, research carried out by the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to Covid-19 in 19 African Union member states, showed 78 per cent of people surveyed were willing to get the vaccine, should it be made available.

In May, 25 per cent of adults in the European Union (EU) said they were unwilling to take any Covid vaccine. According to the PVA just 8.6 per cent of people in African countries have been fully vaccinated.

“We need three things [to improve vaccine inequality]. For countries that do have access to lots of manufacturing capabilities, they need to be sharing more doses more rapidly… Secondly, we need much more money to support roll outs in countries which have weaker healthcare systems… and thirdly, we need poorer countries to have their own capabilities to manufacture vaccines. Ninety nine per cent of Africa’s vaccines are imported,” says David McNair, executive director for global policy at the ONE Campaign.

Several organisations have called on vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to share their vaccine “recipe” with lower-income countries, rather than continue to make them dependent on donations, so far they have been reluctant to do so.

According to the PVA, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna will make $34bn (£25bn) this year in pre-tax profits.

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