Access to COVID-19 vaccines was a major theme in statements delivered at the United Nations General Assembly.The inequality of COVID-19 vaccine distribution was brought into clearer perspective at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday when numerous leaders of African countries whose citizens have little to no access to the life-saving doses took to the microphone.
The fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic has already been prominently highlighted in world leaders’ statements in recent days, many of which were delivered remotely due to the coronavirus itself. Country after country acknowledged the enormous disparities in vaccine access, giving such a grim picture that a solution seemed hopelessly out of reach at times.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa described vaccines as “the best defense that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic” on Thursday.
“It is thus of grave concern that the global community has failed to uphold the ideals of solidarity and collaboration in ensuring fair access to COVID-19 vaccines,” he stated.
“It is an indictment on mankind that wealthy countries have obtained more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccination doses, while low-income countries have received fewer than 1%.”
He and others urged UN member states to accept a proposal to temporarily waive particular World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rights to allow additional countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to develop COVID-19 vaccines.
The disparity is ‘astonishing.’
Namibian President Hage Geingob, for his part, condemned what he dubbed “vaccine shortage,” saying it was a shame that while some countries were receiving booster shots, others were still waiting for their first dosage.
The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Israel are among the countries that have begun or announced their plans to administer boosters.
Angola’s President, Joao Lourenco
Meanwhile, Angola’s President, Joao Lourenco, described the discrepancy in vaccination availability between certain countries and others as “shocking.”
“These discrepancies allow for third doses in some circumstances, while in others, such as Africa, the vast bulk of the population has yet to receive the first dose,” Lourenço explained.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe
President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe has urged the international community to practice “increased multilateralism and unity of purpose” in vaccine distribution.
In a pre-recorded statement, he added, “The hoarding and inequitable distribution with the ensuing uneven vaccination patterns across the globe is not acceptable.”
Mnangagwa continued, “Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and contradicts the motto that no one is safe until everyone is protected.”