ZIMBABWEAN business mogul and African Union special envoy, Dr Strive Masiyiwa has taken a swipe at the COVAX facility’s for sidelining Africa and failing to deliver the 700 million vaccine doses to the continent as was initially agreed early this year.
By Michael Gwarisa
COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, according to Dr Masiyiwa, the facility has not been championing equitable distribution of vaccines as rich countries were given preference and horded dorses in advance. The US has fully vaccinated 45% of its people, the UK 47% and the European Union 29%. Africa has had 61.4 million doses delivered for 1.1 billion people. Just 1.1% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Speaking during a virtual summit on vaccine equality and equitable distribution, Dr Masiyiwa said the COVAX facility has not worked in favor of the African people.
They told us that they had created this thing called COVAX. I met with my colleagues in the African Union in January and I asked them what the COVAX facility would do for us and they said we can deliver up to 20% of vaccines and I said 20% cannot deal with our problem. You yourselves and the Europeans have set a target of 70% of the population, why should Africa have to deal with this permanently. They said you have to go to the donors and I told them to meet us halfway and they said okay.
“I said can you give us a schedule of what you can deliver and they said 700 million doses by December and up to 27% of your population by December would have received vaccines but we have only received less than 30 million of those projected targets. How can I say science has been a miracle to us when my people are dying, we are experiencing the third wave now while you can afford to watch the Euros without even a mask on, it’s happening now but we can’t? I cannot be here and tell you that we are not disappointed,” said Dr Masiiyiwa.
He added that failure by the COVAX facility in Africa has been more of deliberate than it is a moral failure.
“You cannot tell us on one hand that you are going to give us but you haven’t lifted the restrictions on exports of raw materials needed to produce vaccines. The United States has export restrictions on over 60 components required in the production of vaccines. We need access to these vaccines and I came here to tell you that if ever there was an inquiry into how this was done, we even find COVAX culpable because we were misled.
“We were led down the garden path, we got to December believing that the whole world was coming together to purchase vaccines not knowing that we have been pushed into a little corner whilst others run off and secure the supplies. That what COVAX was supposed to do for us and COVAX was supposed to go and purchase from one supplier in India then tell us in June that sorry there a problem in India. Who does the risk analysis of this staff. That is COVAX, please fix this.”
Dr Masiyiwa added that he warned the Indian pharmaceutical company that it does not have capacity to deliver these vaccines but the COVAX facility with on to sign a contract which further compromised the health security situation in Africa.
Africa is currently battling a devastating third wave of coronavirus infections which have seen countries such as Namibia, Uganda reeling under the new hybrid strain. Zambia’s cases are also on the high while neighboring Zimbabwe has instituted localized in most towns close to the Zimbabwe/Zambian boarders to contain the spread of infections. Meanwhile, the Covax, the vaccine-sharing initiative upon which much of Africa is reliant, has only delivered only 5% of its 1.8 billion-dose target for lower-income nations by early next year.