NEW YORK (AP) — The inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution will come into sharper focus Thursday as many of the African countries whose populations have little to no access to the life-saving shots step to the podium to speak at the U.N.’s annual meeting of world leaders.
Already, the struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic has featured prominently in leaders’ speeches. Countries slated to give their annual speeches include Zimbabwe, Uganda and South Africa.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would double its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1 billion doses, with the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year.
“In Africa, fewer than 1 in 20 people are fully vaccinated. In Europe, one in two are fully vaccinated. This inequity is clearly unfair,” Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said in a prerecorded speech Wednesday.
The director of Africa CDC has criticized Britain’s decision to subject some travelers who had been fully vaccinated to quarantine upon their arrival in England.
Dr. John Nkengasong says the Africa CDC will call for a review of the policy that “doesn’t speak to solidarity and cooperation” and are “the cornerstone” to defeat the pandemic.
Britain had pledged to share 100 million vaccines with the rest of the world by June 2022, with 30 million doses to be sent to various countries in 2021, including in Nigeria where it donated 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in August.
But its new policy taking effect Oct. 4 means some people who got those vaccines are still not recognized as fully vaccinated. That is because the U.K. government recognizes those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 based on certain terms, including that travelers must have received a U.K.-authorized shot from an approved health body. None of the bodies in Africa made it to the list.
“If in the same token, you send us vaccines and we use those vaccines, and you say you don’t recognize people that have been immunized with those vaccines, it sends a very challenging message for us … a message that creates confusion within our own population,” Dr. Nkengasong said Thursday.
He added it is “clearly not acceptable” for Britain to put incoming travelers fully vaccinated “on the list to create stigmatization” and criticized the policy and similar positions “not backed by science or any evidence.”