Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Real action, genuine partnerships needed to address COVID-19 vaccine inequalities

As the European Union-African Union Summit begins, it is critical for the summit to prioritize actions aimed at righting the inequities that have plagued the COVID-19 response by rapidly increasing the sharing of COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and related technologies.

Outstandingly, the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that a global public health crisis cannot be solved in piecemeal; it requires genuine partnerships and cooperation. Therefore, the idea that to date the relationship between the EU and AU in responding to COVID-19 which can only be described as perfunctory charity should not stand on the way of real cooperation.

Africa and the world stand a better chance finding a way out of the pandemic if both the EU and the AU work together as equals, which makes it critical to instill this principle as the motto of the summit. There are no viable alternatives to this approach, especially at this time when developing countries have been victimized by decisions of wealthy countries to hoard vaccines or send nearly expired doses to Africa, paving the way for the cycle of deadly waves and variants to continue for a long time.

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The Vaccinate Our World campaign (VOW), initiated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), has for some time now since the beginning of the pandemic committed to address the immoral disparity in COVID-19 vaccine access between wealthy nations and those of lower economic status.

To date, 10 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, with 80 percent of those going to people in high and upper-middle-income countries. Less than 16 percent of the 1.3 billion people on the African continent have received at least one dose.

Specifically, to address the glaring disparity in vaccine availability between Africa and Europe, leaders of both regions must commit to support the TRIPS waiver on vaccine patents and technologies at the World Trade Organization, make vaccines readily available and have a sufficiently long shelf life to avoid unnecessary wastage, expand local generic vaccine manufacturing, technological capacity and scientific know-how, end pandemic profiteering by pharma companies, fund the vaccine distribution infrastructure and human resources, maintain a transparent dialogue between EU and AU leaders and engage civil societies in the cooperation process.

These actions are urgent and necessary. The worlds’ inability to respond collectively to the COVID-19 pandemic is a stark indication that we need to urgently reform and strengthen the international framework of public health governance. To this end, we urge the leaders of the EU and AU to support the adoption of a new Global Public Health Convention or treaty.

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Until the principles of equity, cooperation, transparency, and accountability are enshrined in an international accord, the risk of another, perhaps deadlier pandemic looms over all of us. Esteemed EU and AU leaders, the eyes of the world are upon you – now you must act!

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)

Globally, AHF works in 45 countries and provides care and services to over 1.6 million patients around the world.

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