February 2, 2023

South African President tells world leaders Africans must be included in COVID-19 vaccines development and distribution

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday told world leaders Africans must not be left out when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines development and distribution.

“It is essential that African countries benefit from the vaccines being developed,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator simply known as ACT-Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator. It is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

It is a clever initiative as it allows countries and scientists around the world to work together for a common goal rather than pursue individualistic ones that may not be very effective. It also pulls resources together, allowing scientists with good ideas but no money to thrive.

For the initiative to work, countries around the world have to fund it. However, only about 10 percent of fundings needed have been received so far, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, revealed at his regular press briefing from Geneva on Thursday.

Mr. Ramaphosa called on countries around the world to support and fund the ACT-Accelerator, insisting that Africans must just be the recipients of vaccines, but must take full part in their developments.

“The clinical testing of the vaccines needs to include African populations to ensure that the vaccines are appropriate for Africans. 

“We cannot achieve universal health coverage when the COVID-19 vaccine is available only to countries that are well resourced in terms of research, manufacturing, distribution and service,” Ramaphosa told the inaugural meeting of the Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator that had in attendance Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António Guterres, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of the European Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Facilitation Council, Ms Erna Solberg, Chair of NEPAD and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

He said:  “As long as someone in the world has the new coronavirus, however remote they may be, we are all at risk from the resurgence of COVID-19. 

“We therefore need to move swiftly to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine at the same time. 

“Countries must together support current global initiatives to fund COVID-19 vaccines. 

“We should use all available infrastructure to conduct research to find safe and effective vaccines. 

“The efforts by WHO to enable collaboration among scientists to conduct clinical trials is very welcome. 

“We all need to support these global efforts because they are likely to massify the availability of vaccines that are appropriate for specific locations and populations. 

“We must also incentivise vaccine development, especially for pharmaceutical companies. They may be concerned that it will not be profitable. 

“As some have already done, governments may need to subsidize the development of vaccines as an incentive to ensure fast and adequate production. 

“As a global community, we must encourage people to participate in safe clinical trials of different vaccines. 

“The ACT-Accelerator is vital to the achievement of these goals. 

“It offers us the requisite tools at the speed and scale needed and an equitable mechanism to distribute them.

“Now that it is a proven, functioning mechanism, we must waste no time in rallying to support it with the political and, crucially, the financial resources it needs to succeed. 

“As South Africa and on behalf of the African Union, we look forward to this cooperation and working with all States and partners to achieve our collective objectives.”

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