African health official blasts ‘terrible’ vaccine inequality

Africa’s top public health official says “it will be extremely terrible to see” rich countries receiving COVID-19 vaccines while African countries go without, especially as a second surge in cases begins on the continent of 1.3 billion people

Nkengasong called it a “moral issue” and urged the United Nations to summon a special session to discuss the ethical, fair distribution of vaccines to avoid “this North-South distrust in respect to vaccines, which is a common good.”

COVID-19 will not be defeated in the West alone, he said, and he took aim at “today’s dialogue of suspicion” as rich countries buy vaccines “in excess of their needs while we in Africa are still struggling with the COVAX facility,” the multinational initiative designed to deliver at least some vaccines to less developed countries.

Africa won’t receive nearly enough vaccines from COVAX to reach the goal of vaccinating 60% of the population to achieve herd immunity, Nkengasong said, and he appealed to countries with excess doses to give them to COVAX or countries in need.

“We need to show global cooperation, global solidarity,” he said, “The time to translate those powerful words into action is now.”

Africa’s 54 countries now have a total of more than 2.3 million confirmed infections.

“Clearly the second wave is here, no doubt,” Nkengasong said.