Manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines have been accused by the African Union on Tuesday of denying African countries access to buy them, and urged manufacturing countries; India in particular to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.
Out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world so far, only 2% have been in Africa.
Strive Masiyiwa, AU Special Envoy for COVID-19 stressed that, in aiming to vaccinate 60% of its population, the African Union and its partners had expected to buy half the doses needed, while half were expected to come as donations through the COVAX programme, backed by the WHO and the GAVI global vaccine alliance.
GAVI had been counting India; the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing centre at the start of the outbreak to supply vaccines, but it had not received any doses from India since March, when it imposed export restrictions.
“The suppliers over the last eight to nine months have made it clear that the biggest challenge they face is export restrictions,” Masiyiwa added.
He urged the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to begin working on a standby pandemic readiness fund to help poorer nations buy vaccines in future, instead of having to rely on a sharing facility like COVAX.
“Vaccine sharing is good, but we shouldn’t have to be relying on vaccine sharing, particularly when we can come to the table with structures in place and say we also want to buy,” he said.