The High-Level Group of Personalities of the Africa Europe Foundation has been monitoring the political negotiations involving member nations of the WTO and G20 and is calling today for decisive action on COVID-19 Vaccine Access.
Defeating COVID-19, reinforcing our partnership on health and investing in the required capacity-building and infrastructure for vaccine distribution requires urgent political and financial investment in a common future for Africa and Europe.
The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020 and almost a year later, over 100 million people have been infected with the death toll exceeding two and a half million. Hundreds of millions have lost their jobs and we face the worst economic crisis in seventy years.
In the global world we share, ending the pandemic depends on ensuring that vaccines and treatments are available to everyone, regardless of where and how they live.
Vaccines are an essential component to ending the pandemic, allowing restrictions on social interaction and economic activity to be lifted. Extraordinary global research efforts have created a pipeline of new vaccine candidates. But if they are only available to a few countries or continue to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, we will extend the life of the pandemic.
For as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, the risk of mutations remains and the impact on economies and livelihoods will continue.
In short, none of us are safe until all of us are safe.
While an estimated 7.2 billion vaccine doses have been pre-ordered, high-income countries have reserved enough doses to immunize their populations multiple times over. As a result, many low-income countries will only be able to protect 10% of their population by the end of 2021, far too slow to achieve the threshold required for herd immunity.
We therefore urge governments and the pharmaceutical sector to take the following steps to end this pandemic as quickly as possible:
1. Prioritise sharing surplus doses procured by the EU with Africa in parallel with distribution in EU countries in order to reach the percentage vaccine coverage required for herd immunity. Sharing doses via COVAX should be prioritised as the only existing globally coordinated mechanism for vaccine distribution.
2. Fully fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), which still needs over 19 billion Euros for 2021 to provide vaccines only for the most vulnerable 20% of the population in 91 low- and middle-income countries.
3. Leverage the EU’s financial instruments to underpin the AU’s own procurement strategy to meet the needs of Africa for medical equipment and supplies.
4. Strengthen strategic autonomy for the African continent through investing in manufacturing capacity for these medical products and supplies.
6. In order to be ready for next disease-X, start negotiations immediately for a new global treaty on pandemics anchored in principles of collective solidarity as proposed by the European Council.
Founded in 2020, the Africa Europe Foundation (AEF) is working through its High-Level Group of Personalities and new Africa-Europe Strategy Groups to bring together leaders from across diverse sectors and organisation settings to reinforce health as a permanent pillar of a strengthened Africa-Europe partnership.
Action on vaccine equity and access will remain central to the work of the new AEF Health Strategy Group while opening up Health cooperation as a cross-cutting pillar with the Foundation’s Strategy Groups on Digital, Transport, Energy and Agriculture; this will include action underway on areas from manufacturing and infrastructure development to addressing regulatory barriers to investment.