Health

Public health experts say vaccine equity a must to end pandemic

Talking
about the vaccination gap at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda conference,
World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Emergencies Director Mike Ryan said that over
half of the world’s population has received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine,
but only 7 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated in Africa.

“The problem
is we are leaving huge swathes of the world behind…But vaccines are
absolutely central. There is no way out of the pandemic right now without
vaccines as the central strategic pillar.”

The
discovery of the omicron variant in southern Africa has heightened claims that
low inoculation rates can encourage viral mutations, which can then spread to
countries where rates are much higher.

John
Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, said it was
“unacceptable” that Africa was lagging so far behind other countries
in vaccination and called it ‘collapse of global cooperation and solidarity’

“The
only way to prevent other variants challenging the global efforts and advances
we have seen is to vaccinate on scale, including Africa,” said John
Nkengasong.

Seth F
Berkley, chief executive of vaccine alliance Gavi, said that although global
vaccine supply through COVAX faced initial hurdles like export bans, vaccine
nationalism and companies’ not meeting their dose requirements, things are
slowly coming back on track.

“We
expect the next billion (doses) to take between four to five months versus a
year…the challenge is to make sure every country is ready to receive
them.”

The head of
Africa’s top public health body said African countries are not facing vaccine
hesitancy but looking at logistics issues that need to be addressed.

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“Greater
co-operation is the route to ending this pandemic, whether we end it in 2022 or
2023.”

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