Updated: May 19
25th January 2023
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge for the world and African countries. As the pandemic spreads, the world's poorest countries cannot access the necessary vaccines to protect their citizens. This is due to a phenomenon known as 'vaccine nationalism', whereby wealthier countries hoard doses and restrict exports to protect their populations. This has severely impacted African countries, which are highly dependent on imported vaccines and have yet to be included in the global vaccination effort.
The consequences of this inequality are already being felt across the continent. In Uganda, for example, this has created a two-tier system in which those with connections to the government are vaccinated while ordinary citizens are left to fend for themselves. The situation is similar in other African countries, where elites and government officials are vaccinated while most remain unprotected.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned wealthy countries against holding back supplies to developing nations. The problem is that even the United States (US) and Europe need help to inoculate their people, so they keep buying more in case multiple doses are required. In January 2021, 50 countries began vaccinating, but the three vaccines approved by the EU (Pfizer, Biotech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna) are having delivery issues, resulting in a drastic reduction in doses.
Global solidarity may have been challenged in several ways last year, 2022, including Russia's attack on Ukraine and the food, fuel, and fiscal crises it spawned. Even though COVID-19 cases declined due to combined natural and vaccine-induced immunity, cases again soared by the end of 2021 as political attention and resources to stop the disease, which has now killed more than 6.6 million people worldwide, have waned considerably.
The WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has urged wealthy nations to start sharing their vaccines with the rest of the world. He warns that hoarding the vaccines when global supply is limited is morally wrong and could lead to the emergence of deadlier variants.
To address this crisis, African countries must take steps to boost their drug manufacturing capabilities. This will not only help them to become more self-sufficient but also enable them to provide affordable medicines for their citizens.
The key challenges in resolving the Dependence Crisis in African countries include ensuring equitable access to vaccines, building local manufacturing capacity, and addressing financing constraints. To ensure equitable access, African countries must work together to pool resources and secure supplies through regional initiatives such as The Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust. They must also pressure rich countries and vaccine manufacturers to share doses fairly, using their moral authority to shame them into action.
Finally, African countries must invest in their domestic production capabilities to be independent of future imports. This includes working with the WHO and its COVAX partners to establish its mRNA vaccine-sharing technology for low- and middle-income countries and licensing them for more local production in the long term; the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for global solidarity and collective action to ensure that everyone can benefit from available vaccines. This includes ensuring that African countries are included in accessing lifesaving medicines. By investing in local manufacturing capabilities, pooling resources, and putting pressure on vaccine manufacturers, African countries can progress in their fight against the pandemic and protect their citizens. Only then can we stand a chance of eradicating the disease and preventing further deaths globally.